Star-studded Dhaka Premier League gets underway inside BCB's biggest bio-bubble

No handshakes - Mahmudullah does the elbow shake with a team-mate Raton Gomes/BCB

The BCB has undertaken its biggest bio-bubble to date to host the Dhaka Premier League, which commences on May 31. The 2019-20 season was called off after just one round of matches last year, and the one-day tournament will now be a T20 competition due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Bangladesh, however, continues to be under a lockdown even though most daily life activity is being allowed. While the daily Covid-19 cases dipped last week, it has still not gone below the 1,000-mark.

It is in this backdrop that the six DPL matches will be played on each match day at the Shere Bangla National Stadium and the two BKSP grounds. The BCB have already released the fixture for the first 30 matches to be held by June 6. The top six teams will feature in the Super League while the bottom three will fight for survival in the relegation playoffs, like every season.

While the format is shortened to complete the pending tournament, the BCB have reportedly spent more than Taka 7 crore (USD 825,230 approx.) to get all twelve teams and match officials inside the bubble. They have already checked into four different five-star hotels in Dhaka, with regular testing and temperature checks part of their wide-ranging safety measures.

Kazi Inam Ahmed, the BCB director who heads the Cricket Committee of Dhaka Metropolis, the body that organises the Dhaka leagues, said that they felt it was better to create the bigger bio-bubble rather than leaving it to the individual clubs.

"We have hosted West Indies and Sri Lanka, and we have also toured two countries, so we have seen how others are doing it. So this is the best bio-bubble we could do at this point. But is anything foolproof?" Kazi Inam Ahmed, BCB director

"It is actually a pretty big bio-bubble," Ahmed told ESPNcricinfo. "We have done two tournaments with three and five teams previously, so this is our biggest challenge. BCB have taken many initiatives. More than fifty per cent of the players have been vaccinated even if they are under the age of 40. Leagues and tournaments are being held around in the world in other sport too.

"In the English Premier League, players are coming to matches from home. If there's a positive case, that player is isolated, while we have also seen that some matches got postponed due to the cases. We felt that the best way to address it would be to actually create a bio-bubble. We felt that the top hotels are the best places to do it."

Ahmed said that the BCB has already conducted two RT-PCR tests ahead of the hotel check-ins, and they have BCB-appointed monitors in each hotel to ensure there are no breaches.

"We have asked the teams to test the players on their own. It helps create awareness. We have already done two days of testing before the players get into the bio-bubble, on May 26 and 28.

"Every single hotel has an observer and a BCB-appointed doctor. There is going to be random temperature checks. We urge anyone who has even the slightest symptom, to come forward as soon as possible. It might not be (Covid-19), but we want to address it quickly," he said.

Ahmed said that the BCB have taken lessons from their own experience managing bio-bubbles in Bangladesh, having also experienced it in New Zealand and Sri Lanka earlier this year.

"We have had two successful domestic tournaments as well as the NCL which couldn't continue (due to nationwide lockdown).

"We have hosted West Indies and Sri Lanka, and we have also toured two countries, so we have seen how others are doing it. So this is the best bio-bubble we could do at this point. But is anything foolproof?" he said.

'DPL will be great preparation for the T20 World Cup'

The DPL is being scheduled in a way that most of Bangladesh's top cricketers can take part during the break after the ODIs against Sri Lanka, and before their departure to Zimbabwe on June 29. While Tamim Iqbal, Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah have regularly taken part in the league, Shakib Al Hasan will be playing the DPL for the first time since 2016, this time having forgone his PSL contract.

"I am excited that all the national players are playing including Shakib, Tamim, Mushfiq and Riyad. Sometimes we have not had them, and we might not have them in the future given their busy calendar.

"I think this will be great preparation for the T20s ahead against Australia, New Zealand and England at home, and the World Cup T20 coming up."

Ahmed has already crossed the considerable hurdle of convincing both the board and the clubs to participate in the DPL, to ensure the largest chunk of professional cricketers in the country don't go another year without their regular income.

"We are trying our best to create a safe environment in this time. I also want to thank all the players and clubs for coming forward to make this tournament happen. It is a very short schedule," he said.