Bogura’s very own IPL!
A big hall, team officials seated in separate tables, an auctioneer calling out names of players one by one, interested teams raising their paddle and finally the auctioneer slamming the gavel into the table to confirm the player's newest team - this may seem like a scene of a typical auction of the Indian Premier League (IPL), but it's not.
On February 3, inside a humble auditorium in Bogura's Sariakandi upazila, six local teams gathered for the auction of the fourth Bir Muktizodda Abdul Mannan MP Premier League, a tournament that can very well be called Bogura's very own version of the IPL.
It all started in 2020, when Bir Muktijodda Abdul Mannan MP Memorial Club and Sports Academy held the first edition of the tournament with hopes of giving local players a platform to play and find cricketers who can make it to the top.
"Ritu Moni [Bangladesh women's team player] is the only cricketer from our upazila who plays for the national team. Our aim is to find more cricketers from the upazila who can contribute at the national level," said Razia Sultana, general secretary of the academy.
Razia, who conducts the auction as the auctioneer, also explained the thinking behind the auction, saying, "We have a limited number of good players. Therefore, we have the auction so that every team has the opportunity to form a balanced team."
To register for the auction, a player has to be from the Sariakandi upazila and much like the IPL, each team has a fixed purse to buy players, which was set at Tk 60,000 for this year's tournament.
This year 123 names went under the hammer and six clubs - Kalitola Tigers, Baluartair Shahid Momotaz Club, Three Star, Paikpara Brothers XI, Dosto, Royal Strikers – bid for the players they wanted to rope in.
The organisers informed that this year the teams spent a total of Tk 1,07,000 in the auction.
The tournament is a hit amongst the locals, many of whom donate funds to the teams out of love for the game and with the intention of investing in local sports, informed Razia.
"I am a local rice trader. I invest a little money here to improve the local sports though I don't understand cricket very well. This time, we have bought 17 players for Tk 27,000," said Shahadat Hossain, owner of the Kalitola Tigers.
Al-Amin, owner of the Baluartair Shahid Momtaz Club, said that most teams take part in the tournament just for the joy of it.
"Right from when the tournament first got launched, we have been buying local cricketers through auction. Although the champions and the runners-up teams will together get only Tk 50,000 as prize money, it's great fun taking part in the tournament and it also helps the local youngsters earn some money."
The teams also get some local sponsors and funding from sports enthusiasts from their community.
"Local shopkeepers, traders, politicians invest in this tournament. Some local shopkeepers become sponsors. Some of them provide jerseys, sports equipment, under the conditions that we will promote their name on our jerseys," said Mounuddin Shanto, captain of the Kalitola team.
The six teams also get to buy two icon players each. Mamunur Rashid, an icon player of the Royal Striker's, said, "I was bought for Tk.3,500 for this season."
Although it's a small-scale event, with Razia saying they spend around Tk 3-4 lakh to stage the month-long tournament, it has been able to bring a community together and also open up an avenue for young players to earn through playing cricket like professional cricketers.
Bangladesh Cricket Board has been talking about decentralising the game for years, to take the sport to the grassroot level, but with little implementation.
The league in Bogura is an ideal example of how cricket can be used at the root-levels to promote young cricketers.
The razzmatazz of an auction, sponsored jerseys and icon players only add to the interest, almost turning it into Bogura's very own version of the IPL.