Pakistani cricketers have a big following in Bangladesh and their absence will be a big blow to the tournament. © AFP

Bangladesh cricket chiefs confirmed on Wednesday (January 16) that the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) had refused to release any of its players for the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL), which begins on Thursday (January 17).

Pakistan had been due to host Bangladesh for a Twenty20 International and a One-Day International in Lahore this month in what would have been the first tour of Pakistan by an international team since an attack on the Sri Lankan team bus by gunmen nearly four years ago.

But the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) cancelled the tour, saying Pakistan was not safe for its players.

According to a BCB spokesman, Pakistan has now responded by preventing any of its stars from competing in the BPL.

“The chief executive officer of PCB called us today and informed us that they won’t allow Pakistani players to play in the BPL until we send our team to their country,” said Jalal Yunus, the BCB spokesperson.

“We’ve now decided to host the event without Pakistani players,” he said, adding the BPL’s seven franchises would find replacements for the 26 Pakistani players they bought in the auction last month.

The move represents a major blow to the second edition of the BPL since Pakistani cricketers have a big following in Bangladesh. More than 50 Pakistani players took part in the auction for the second edition of BPL, with opening batsman Imran Nazir fetching US$280,000.

Yunus said Bangladesh had not ruled out touring Pakistan in the coming months but wanted to reassess the security situation before sending a team. Bangladesh was also due to tour Pakistan last April, but the tour was blocked by the Dhaka High Court on security grounds.