Mohammad IsamBangladesh correspondent, ESPNcricinfo
Previous season: Champions (P15, W9, L6)
Rangpur Riders have assembled a team befitting defending champions. Mashrafe Mortaza, the newly elected MP, will have eyes on an unprecedented fifth BPL triumph for himself with Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers, Alex Hales, Ravi Bopara and Rilee Rossouw part of his batting arsenal.
All five can’t be picked on the same day, as the Riders will look for control with the ball, too, as they enter the tournament as favourites. To balance out the batting might, they have Mashrafe, Sheldon Cottrell, Abul Hasan and Shafiul Islam in the pace attack, as well as the left-arm spinner Nazmul Islam and offspinner Sohag Gazi.
The Riders have also retained Mohammad Mithun, their best batsman during the league phase last year, apart from signing Nadif Chowdhury, Farhad Reza, Nahidul Islam, Fardeen Hasan, Sean Williams and Mehedi Maruf to ensure that they don’t just rely on the big guns.
In an already well-crafted team, AB de Villiers‘ gigantic presence will only make the Riders a stronger unit. It will be a challenge to negotiate Dhaka’s slow pitches but de Villiers also has form on his side, having made an unbeaten 93 in his last game in the Mzansi Super League.
Fardeen Hasan, a graduate from Mashrafe’s cricket academy in Narail, has played five List A matches and one first-class match, and has looked tidy as a left-hand opening batsman.
First XI: 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Alex Hales, 3 Mohammad Mithun (wk), 4 AB de Villiers, 5 Ravi Bopara, 6 Nadif Chowdhury, 7 Sohag Gazi, 8 Abul Hasan, 9 Mashrafe Mortaza (capt), 10 Shafiul Islam, 11 Nazmul Islam
Rangpur Riders squad: Mashrafe Mortaza, Nazmul Islam, Mohammad Mithun, Chris Gayle, Alex Hales, AB de Villiers, Shafiul Islam, Sohag Gazi, Farhad Reza, Mehedi Maruf, Ravi Bopara, Rilee Rossouw, Nahidul Islam, Nadif Chowdhury, Abul Hasan, Fardeen Hasan, Benny Howell, Sheldon Cottrell, Sean Williams
Previous season: Runners-up (P14, W8, L5, NR1)
Outside these four, Dynamites have Hazratullah Zazai, who created mayhem in the Afghanistan Premier League in October, as well as the experienced England batsman Ian Bell and the South African fast bowler Andrew Birch.
They have also picked some promising local players in the top-order batsmen Rony Talukdar and Mizanur Rahman, wicketkeeper Nurul Hasan, allrounder Shuvagata Hom, and Rubel Hossain, who remains one of Bangladesh’s best death bowlers .
Shakib Al Hasan‘s 2017 BPL campaign didn’t end well after Chris Gayle tore into the Dynamites attack in the final. But he’s coming into this tournament on the back of great form with bat and ball for Bangladesh. He will lend balance to the side by batting at No. 4 and being flexible about when he comes on to bowl.
BPL will brace itself for the left-handed Hazratullah Zazai, who shot to fame with six sixes in an over in the APL, while hitting a 12-ball fifty. Zazai also struck a 55-ball 124 earlier in the tournament, and 82 off 55 balls against Ireland in a T20I in August. If he gets going in the BPL, the spectators are in for a treat.
First XI: 1 Rony Talukdar, 2 Sunil Narine, 3 Hazratullah Zazai, 4 Shakib Al Hasan, 5 Kieron Pollard, 6 Andre Russell, 7 Nurul Hasan (wk), 8 Shuvagata Hom, 9 Asif Hasan, 10 Qazi Onik, 11 Rubel Hossain
Squad: Shakib Al Hasan, Rubel Hossain, Nurul Hasan, Rony Talukdar, Shuvagata Hom, Qazi Onik, Mizanur Rahman, Asif Hasan, Shahadat Hossain, Naim Sheikh, Mohor Sheikh, Sunil Narine, Kieron Pollard, Hazratullah Zazai, Andre Russell, Andrew Birch, Ian Bell
Previous season: Sixth (P12, W4, L8)
Rajshahi Kings have much to improve upon after finishing second from bottom in the 2017-18 BPL. They have rejigged their top order by including Soumya Sarkar and Mohammad Hafeez, while Laurie Evans, Christiaan Jonker and Seekkuge Prasanna will add big hits towards the end of the innings.
They have also roped in Ryan ten Doeschate for his batting experience, apart from retaining Zakir Hasan and Mominul Haque, who are likely to feature in their top three. The side is likely to be led by the offspinner Mehidy Hasan Miraz, who has improved significantly for Bangladesh in 2018.
Left-arm bowlers Mustafizur Rahman and Isuru Udana make a handy death-overs pair, while Arafat Sunny and legspinner Qais Ahmad will add depth to a bowling attack that also includes Kamrul Islam Rabbi.
Soumya Sarkar has found form in the 2018-19 season, which helped him get back his regular spot in Bangladesh’s ODI team. He will be key to the Kings getting positive starts, something that he missed while playing for Chittagong Vikings last season, making only 169 runs in 11 matches, at a strike rate of under 100.
Christiaan Jonker, who made his South Africa debut in 2018, attracted curiosity after being signed by the Kings from outside the draft. He is a big-hitting middle-order batsman who had good years in 2016 and 2017 but averaged only 12.91 in 13 innings last year.
First XI: 1 Soumya Sarkar, 2 Zakir Hasan (wk), 3 Mominul Haque, 4 Mohammad Hafeez, 5 Laurie Evans, 6 Fazle Mahmud, 7 Seekkuge Prasanna, 8 Mehidy Hasan Miraz (capt), 9 Arafat Sunny, 10 Isuru Udana, 11 Mustafizur Rahman
Squad: Mominul Haque, Mehidy Hasan Miraz, Mustafizur Rahman, Zakir Hasan, Qais Ahmad, Christiaan Jonker, Soumya Sarkar, Fazle Mahmud, Arafat Sunny, Alauddin Babu, Isuru Udana, Laurie Evans, Marshall Ayub, Kamrul Islam Rabbi, Ryan ten Doeschate, Seekkuge Prasanna, Mohammad Hafeez, Shahriar Nafees
Previous season: Seventh (P12, W3, L8, NR1)
Chittagong Vikings were out of this season’s BPL until very late, and they ended up with a somewhat hurriedly-put-together team. Still, their team management, consisting of Bangladesh chief selector Minhajul Abedin and his younger brother and team head coach Nurul Abedin, has so far done a decent job.
They have retained last year’s performers Luke Ronchi, Sikandar Raza, Najibullah Zadran and Sunzamul Islam. Right before the draft picks began in November, they signed Mushfiqur Rahim, which strengthened their middle order further.
But they have three wicketkeepers – Ronchi, Mushfiqur and Mohammad Shahzad – who could potentially all be part of the same XI. Their other problem is having too many similar players in the lower middle order. Robbie Frylinck, Cameron Delport and Dasun Shanaka are likely to vie for similar positions although they are all impressive options.
Luke Ronchi, who is one of the four retained players from last season, gave the Vikings fast starts last season, making 321 runs at a strike-rate of 169.84. In the 40 T20s since, he has continued to score at a similar strike-rate, while making a century and seven fifties for five different teams.
A corruption-related suspension has kept Mohammad Ashraful from playing competitive T20s since 2013. He has played 23 List A games since returning in 2016, averging 47.63 with a strike rate of 70.86. His five centuries in last year’s Dhaka Premier League turned heads but he hasn’t followed it up too well in the first-class tournaments since.
First XI: 1 Luke Ronchi (wk), 2 Mohammad Shahzad, 3 Shadman Islam, 4 Mushfiqur Rahim, 5 Sikandar Raza, 6 Mosaddek Hossain, 7 Robbie Frylinck, 8 Sunzamul Islam, 9 Nayeem Hasan, 10 Abu Jayed, 11 Khaled Ahmed
Chittagong Vikings squad: Sunzamul Islam, Mushfiqur Rahim, Mohammad Shahzad, Mosaddek Hossain, Abu Jayed, Khaled Ahmed, Nayeem Hasan, Mohammad Ashraful, Robiul Haque, Yasir Ali, Nihaduzzaman, Shadman Islam, Sikandar Raza, Luke Ronchi, Robbie Frylinck, Cameron Delport, Dasun Shanaka, Najibullah Zadran