Asia

Barisal Burners secure victory in BPL cricket opener

Indian film actress Malika Arora (3rd L) dances during in the inaugural ceremony of the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) at Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium in Dhaka on February 9 , 2012
Image caption The BPL was launched in the presence of Indian and Bangladeshi celebrities

The opening match of the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) kicked off with an unbeaten century by West Indian Chris Gayle.

His efforts helped Barisal Burners clinch a 10-wicket victory over Sylhet Royals.

The inaugural series of the BPL was launched with a colourful and glitzy opening ceremony on Thursday.

But correspondents say there are doubts whether it can become a success given the fans' lukewarm response.

An Indian version of the Twenty20 tournament, the Indian Premier League (IPL), has proved to be a huge commercial and popular success.

Adopting a similar flamboyant tone to the IPL, the Bangladeshi edition was launched in the presence of celebrities - both Indian and Bangladeshi - such as Ayub Bachhu, Kumar Biswajit, Shan and Bappi Lahiri.

Barisal Burners' skipper Shahriar Nafees won the toss for Friday's match and invited Sylhet Royals to bat first.

Aided by skipper Peter Trego and Alok Kapali, Sylhet Royals posted 165 runs losing four wickets.

Gayle scored the ton in just 44 balls with seven boundaries and 10 over boundaries, while his Pakistani batting partner Ahmed Shehzad remained not out with 56.

Controversy

The auction of the franchises of the six teams participating in the tournament have fetched $6.49m (£4.2m), with Chittagong Kings the most expensive franchise at $1.2m; (£762,000). The six teams will play 33 matches in Dhaka and Chittagong with the final on 29 February.

But the tournament has already proved controversial after former Bangladesh captain Mashrafe Mortaza said that he was approached by an unnamed player regarding "potential spot-fixing".

The BBC's Ethirajan Anbarasan in Dhaka says that the lukewarm response to the league so far has raised questions about spectator interest in this tournament.

For the opening match on Friday more than two-thirds of the stadium was empty. Bangladesh cricket board officials say higher ticket prices are keeping fans away and they are considering reducing the prices.

There are concerns here that if the tournament doesn't generate enough interest in the next few weeks, it may prove to be a huge embarrassment for the organisers, our correspondent says.