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Old February 10, 2019, 08:04 PM
Roey Haque's Avatar
Roey Haque Roey Haque is offline
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Default What went Wrong for Khulna Titans? *Article* BPL 2019

Feb 10th, 2019

In the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL), there are more winners than losers at the group stage, which is a rarity in sports leagues. While the top four teams advance to the playoffs, the bottom three teams do not. The top four teams have a chance of reaching the prized final via knockouts and qualifiers, the bottom three teams do not get that opportunity, as it is the end of road for them. In any edition of the BPL, you do not want to be one of these three teams. Especially when there are only seven teams participating, reaching top four is considered a beginner’s goal. It is the bare minimum that a team must do to be considered a success in the month long league. Unfortunately with sports, there are winners and losers which makes it so fun in the first place because of the competition. In this edition of the BPL, the three teams which did not make it to the playoffs are Sylhet Sixers, Khulna Titans and Rajshahi Kings. It is interesting to diagnose each team’s season and offer commentary on their underperformance. But one of these teams is not like the others.

Despite some teams being better endowed with T20 stars, it was a relatively competitive tournament. There were plenty of close finishes. Even when teams scored big, the opponent chased it down or came close to chasing the mammoth total. Even when teams scored paltry totals, the opponents could not chase it down or struggled in their endeavor. The win percentages of the seven teams reflected the competitiveness of the 6th edition of the BPL. Out of the seven teams, five of them finished with the record of 50 percent or more win rate. The top win rate was only 66.66% however, as Rangpur Riders and Comilla Victorians both were able to win 8 out of their 12 games. Sylhet Sixers and Khulna Titans were below the 50 percent win rate. But while Sixers just fell short of that 50 percent mark, winning 5 out of their 12 games, Khulna Titans only managed to win 2 out of their 12 games. So Titan’s performance, or lack thereof, was an aberration in an otherwise competitive BPL 2019.

While we are looking for storylines, Titan’s meek effort this time around cannot be overlooked. Their 16.6% win rate sticks out like a sore thumb. Ever since the teams started playing 12 games in the group stage beginning in BPL 2016, no team has had a worse record. Also worth mentioning is that the Khulna Titans made the playoffs in the last two editions of the league. So for one reason or the other, they fell spectacularly short of expectations this season. It is worthwhile to explore their poor showing. By learning from their mistakes, they can improve next time. Other teams can also look at Titan’s dismal showing as a blueprint of what not to do.
Firstly, from the start, Titans had the weakest roster on paper. In the pre-draft system in BPL, one is allowed to buy two foreign players before the actual draft. It is an opportunity to really signal your intent for the upcoming season. One can also retain a set number of players from the previous season to build consistency in the team. There is also the draft to choose players from, but luck determines the serial at which players get called. But the pre-draft system is not hindered by such restrictions, and a team can target and acquire any player they wish that will best serve their strategy and build value on top of their retained players. So it was a surprise that Titans chose the ageing Dawid Malan and a wildcard American pacer in Ali Khan. Dawid is considered a T20 specialist batsman, but he pales in comparison to some of the other recent marquee names in the T20 format. In cricket’s newest format, recent form is the name of the game. As there are so many global T20 leagues now, scouts are always looking out for difference makers, and so the once upon a time T20 star Dawid Malan is now eclipsed by far greater T20 specialists. To judge Khulna Titan’s pre-draft buys, just compare it with what Dhaka Dynamites, Rangpur Riders, Chittagong Vikings and Sylhet Sixers did. Dynamite’s Hazratullah Zazai and Andre Russel, Riders’ Alex Hales and AB deVilliers, and Viking’s Md Shahzad are all much more recognized names in T20 world cricket than Dawid Malan. Sixers took the bowling route, opting for Sandeep Lamichhane and Imran Tahir, two successful bowlers at the coveted art of leg spin in world cricket. Compare that to Ali Khan, who is a rising star, but has not hit the kind of heights that Lamichhane and Tahir has. So right from the get go, Titan’s pre-draft actions spelled a lack of ambition with all due respect. Perhaps they were comfortable with their retained players going into the draft, and did not see the need to splash more cash at the pre-draft. It was a mistake in hindsight.

Let us shift our attention to the icon players. There are six local icon players, and one foreign one in Sylhet Sixer’s David Warner. The icon player is the BPL’s definition of a superstar. Every team is supposed to have one to create a level playing field. So then, it makes sense if one relies on their icon player to bail you out. On the flipside, a team could be in trouble if their icon player has a bad tournament. It is true other stars can bail him out, but it has to create some sort of dysfunction in the locker room when your supposed core player cannot lead by example. This is where Titans fell short with Mahmudullah Riyad. The Mymensingh native hasn’t had a bad tournament, but did not impact his team as much as the other icon players did with the exception of Comilla Victorian’s Tamim Iqbal. Mashrafe who retired from the national T20 team, surprisingly did very well with the ball for Rangpur Riders. As it currently stands, he is the third highest wicket taker at 19 wickets, with an economy rate of below seven, which is great for T20s. Similarly, Shakib did well for the Dhaka Dynamites as he always does. He is the second highest wicket taker for now with 21 wickets, and his batting average of 25 has been more than handy. Staying on the theme of bowling, Mustafizur Rahman also did amazingly well for the Rajshahi Kings. Even though the Kings did not qualify for the playoffs, Mustafiz won them many matches single handedly, and they finished with a 50 percent win rate equaling that of the Dynamites, but did not make it to the playoffs because of an inferior net run rate. With the bat, both Mushfiqur Rahim and David Warner were outstanding for their teams, ranking amongst the top 10 batsmen in averages. Perhaps had Warner not injured his elbow, Sylhet Sixers would have made the playoffs. So to recap, all of the icon players had a great effect on their teams through their performances except Riyad and Tamim. While Tamim’s average of 28 is still respectable, Mahmudullah’s below 20 average is not. He did not show up with the ball either, only bowling 12 overs out of the total 48 that would be available to him. He would have elected to bowl more had he been picking up more wickets or kept his economy below seven, which he could not. Thus, this was another reason why Titans did so badly. Their icon player did not impress enough, and it must have had a demoralizing effect on his personnel as they saw other icon players deliver for their respective teams.

It could just be that Titans had bad luck. Just as how Vikings got very lucky with their pre-draft pick Robbie Frylinck, who is turning out to be one of the players of the tournament thus far, the Titans could not get the likes of Carlos Brathwaite to click. But luck aside, it is also an issue of strategy upon closer inspection. Discounting all-rounders, no other team fielded four different foreign bowlers apart from the Titans this tournament. This denotes that they overvalue the value of bowling in T20, really rating the skills of Lasith Malinga, Yasir Shah, Junaid Khan and Zahir Khan over other local players who might have done the same job for them, thus freeing up extra spots for batting. Obviously, it played out badly for them. They would have been better off picking more T20 batting options to back Paul Stirling and Junaid Siddique, who were excellent for them.

In summary, it is back to the drawing board for Khulna Titans. For the next BPL, the fans would like them to clearly state their intent at the pre-draft, spending big on players who they know will play the majority of the matches. They would also do well to value batting more, and pick more specialist T20 batsmen as the other teams did. All your classic T20 stars being all-rounders does not help in Mahmudullah Riyad, Carlos Brathwaite and David Wiese. Wiese had a good tournament, but strategy wise, one should equally distribute their stars among batsman, all-rounders and bowlers, as most other teams did. About their captain and icon player Riyad, they cannot do much. But perhaps Riyad himself will get more confidence if he sees more money being spent on the squad and a change of strategy away from bowlers and all-rounders to batsmen. Best wishes to the Khulna franchise for the next BPL.


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The end of Rahim will mark a new great beginning for the complacency free Bangladesh!
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Old February 16, 2019, 04:17 PM
Ahnaf S Ahnaf S is offline
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I can understand your viewpoint on this. However you have to understand the framework of a team in the BPL. The idea they should have spent more money is wrong. Each team is given money,by owners, to spend on recruitment based on strategies and other factors, this is done before the draft and subsequent purchases. This is to ensure teams do not over spend and stay within limits the only time a team spends more is down to great performances and income from extra sponsors. Having said that a team like Chittagong who went from having not a good team on paper to potential proves the idea getting more well known or icon players. Also the idea they should move money away from their strong point bowling is not a good one. What they should do is, as you stated, focus on batting. Now focus does not mean buy Gayle and ABD.To reinforce my point their coach is Mahela!!! What you will find is Khulna never really had amazing batting in any of the seasons of BPL, however in previous seasons there batting held up as there were strategies in place. This time Khulna Titans main problem was they basically forgot who they were in sense. Instead of batsmen batting together it was go out there and do your own innings. All the batsmen had their moments none of the batsmen should have been thrown out. The problem for Khulna was they didn't have a plan for their TEAM they assembled. Also there was hardly any chemistry between players as shown in previous seasons were Khulna would rise up behind Muhammadullah. To conclude I understand what you are saying and agree with some points but the main reason Khulna failed was due mostly to the strategy side of cricket and team philosophy.
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Old February 17, 2019, 02:05 PM
zura zura is offline
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I think their biggest issue was Mahmudullah and Ariful not firing. These were the 2 domestic cricketers they were banking on but neither were anywhere near what was expected of them.
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Old February 17, 2019, 10:33 PM
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Rinathq Rinathq is offline
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Yup.. they were wrong to rely too heavily on Riyad and basically didn't have anyone else in the entire team stepping up. When Tamim failed at the beginning for Comilla.. others made up for it, when Mushy failed, Yasir stepped up, when Shakib failed, Rony, Rubel, Narine stepped up... You need backups.
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