KOLKATA: Come Sunday, four discredited Pakistani players including Mohammed Amir could get a chance to redeem themselves in the opening match of the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) in Dhaka.
Amir, along with Saeed Ajmal and the two Akmal brothers Umar and Kamran, have been drafted by Chittagong Viking, scheduled to play the inaugural match two days from now.
Another player who could likely get a chance to make a statement on Sunday is Ahmed Shehzad, whose team Comilla Victorians will play the second match.
However, like the others, Shehzad too needs to first feature among the four outstation players allowed in a BPL team.
Mohammed Asif does not feature among the 16 players from Pakistan to have been drafted by the six franchises in the T20 league as it enters its third edition after a year’s hiatus.
Among the marquee names from Pakistan in the near-month-long BPL this year are its T20 captain Shahid Afridi and his Test counterpart Misbah-ul-Haq.
All BPL teams were disbanded after the second season in 2013 when former Bangladesh star Mohammad Ashraful and four others were convicted of fixing matches.
Chittagong Viking presents an interesting picture: the four Pakistanis it picked are all eyeing a comeback to the national side.
Amir, Ajmal and the two Akmal brothers were dropped from national duty either on account of indifferent form, disciplinary issues or conviction in a corruption case.
But with only four outstation players allowed in a team, the Pakistan hopefuls have to contend with other foreign recruits to find a place in the final XI: Jeevan Mendis and Chamara Kapugedara (Sri Lanka), Robin Petersen (South Africa) and Elton Chigumbura (Zimbabwe).
Facing Chittagong in the opening match is Dhaka Dynamites with five Pakistanis on its rolls that include Nasir Jamshed, who too is eyeing a comeback to national side.
Also awaiting a return to grace is Shehzad, drafted in the Comilla Victorians side along with Shoaib Malik.
And though there seems to be no serious contender for the openers’ slot, Shehzad’s favourite position, the squad is packed with power-hitters including Andre Russell and Marlon Samuel from West Indies.
Plus, Comilla has Darren Stevens of England, who swept the awards in the 2013 county championship after being adjudged Best Player, Best Batsman and Best Bowler.
The Pakistanis most likely to feature in the opening match on Sunday are Wahab Riaz and Misbah-ul-Haq.
They are the only Pakistani recruits for Rangpur Riders, which will face-off with Chittagong Vikings in the opening tie.
The biggest crowd-puller from Pakistan, Shahid Afridi, will turn out for the third match of the league on Monday afternoon for Sylhet Super Stars.
In a recent report, Bangladeshi daily Prothom Alo said Afridi is among the “five-six” players who will be paid above the cap of $70,000.
The higher payment was necessary in the interest of the league, the Bengali daily said quoting BPL Governing Council Member-Secretary Ismail Haider Mallik.
Another likely Pakistani presence on the field alongside Afridi on Monday could be Sohail Tanvir, who along with Rubel Hossain and Mohammed Shahid comprises Sylhet’s pace attack.
The team to feature the maximum number of Pakistanis is Dhaka Dynamites; apart from Nasir Jamshed, it has on board Yasir Shah, Sohail Khan, Mohammad Irfan and Shahzaib Hasan.
The team from Comilla, a district town south of Dhaka, will be mentored by Wasim Akram.