Shock news out of Bangladesh, less than a month ahead of the New Zealand tour, is that 13 Bangladeshi players, including six current internationals, are joining the ICL and effectively leaving international cricket.
New Zealand will be the first team to try out the newly weakened Bangladesh, with our own weakened side, and the powers that be are not happy.
So just how badly will these defections affect the Bangladesh team?
The internationals amongst the rebels include Habibul Bashar, Aftab Ahmed, Alok Kapali, Shahriar Nafees, Farhad Reza, Dhiman Ghosh and Mosharraf Hossain. Of these, the biggest losses are Bashar, with his 50-test experience, and Nafees, the 22-year old prodigy and the only other of these players to have a test batting average over 25. All the others are, quite frankly, replaceable. The sad fact about Bangladesh cricket is that many of its players have simply failed to add anything to the team. Another point to note is that Bashar was approaching the end of his career and his form had already slipped away. Losing Bashar is analogous to losing Fleming – clearly a big loss, but one that the team could ride out. Losing Nafees is more like losing a Ross Taylor.
My feeling is that most of the talent in the current Bangladesh team has remained. Their talented captain Mohammad Ashrafal is staying (reportedly turning down a $500,000/year offer from the ICL), as are Tamim Iqbal (who scored a couple of 50s against us last year) and Shahadat Hossain, their only bowler to have a test average of less than 40, amongst others.
Losing 13 players will certainly hurt Bangladesh. Several of the rebels are first choice picks for the national team, while the others would otherwise be the replacements for the first choice players. Take 13 players out of the top two tiers of NZ cricket and...well, it doesn't bear thinking about. Bangladesh apparently has a robust domestic cricket scene, so it could well be that the weaker of the rebels could be replaced fairly easily. I therefore think that the impact of the defections will not be as great as the numbers suggest. However, the fact that they have a large pool of mediocre players to replace losses in this way, highlights the great loss that Nafees will be.
In the longer term, the damage could be greater, but I might consider the long term implications in another post.