Dhaka:Bangladesh's cricket chiefs were on Monday scrambling to save the sport's future in the country after reports that six top players had signed with a rebel Indian Twenty20 league.
Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) spokesman Rabeed Imam told AFP an urgent meeting had been summoned on Tuesday with the six players, who on Sunday quit the national team to pursue lucrative deals with the Indian Cricket League (ICL).
The meeting comes amid growing rumours that more Bangladeshi players were ready to join the ICL.
"The board wants to know why they are resigning en masse," Imam said.
Among the six expected to sign with the ICL -- in deals reported to be worth 200,000 dollars each over a three-year period -- is former Bangladesh captain Habibul Bashar.
The five other players are batsmen Shariar Nafees and Aftab Ahmed, wicket-keeper Dhiman Ghosh and bowlers Mosharaf Hussain and Farhad Reza.
Nafees, a former Bangladesh vice-captain, told AFP he was fed up with his country's cricket administration.
"I have not signed yet, but the ICL offer is lucrative," said Nafees. "Some of the players are joining the ICL because they are fed up at the way they have been treated by the board."
Players who take part in the ICL, bankrolled by India's largest listed media company Zee Telefilms, are banned from playing official domestic and international cricket.
Media reports said two other national team members, all-rounder Alok Kapali and opening batsman Nazim Uddin, will also join the rebel league.
A top Bangladeshi cricketer earns some 36,000 dollars a year, but first-class salaries are pegged much lower at around 7,300 dollars.
Privately-owned television station NTV said current captain Mohammad Ashraful had turned down an ICL offer worth half a million dollars.
Former Bangladesh cricketer Aminul Islam told AFP the sport was in crisis.
"The board has invested hugely in these players and now they are leaving the country for the ICL," said Islam, the first Bangladeshi batsman to hit a century in Test cricket.
"It's come at a time when Bangladesh is not playing well. The authorities need to resolve this fast before it gets any worse. It's like a virus, which will infect the younger players."
Former captain and chief selector Faruq Ahmed said he feared the exodus would damage the sport in Bangladesh and threaten its Test status which was acquired in 2000.
"These are the top Bangladesh players and by joining the ICL, it weakens the national team, which has already had very bad performances in the last six months," Ahmed said.
Bangladesh has a poor record in Test cricket, winning just once and drawing four out of 53 matches so far.
The South Asian nation is due to host New Zealand for two Tests and three one-day internationals next month.