A number of stars had joined the competition by 2011, including Chris Gayle and Shaun Tait, while Jason Gillespie and Kevin Curran were coaching in one capacity or another.
“The only issue was financially it was unsustainable,” Mustard recalls. “Not all the big stars got paid on time which caused a bit of hoo-ha. But as an experience it was outstanding.”
Domestic players were unable to regularly attend practice which left Mustard and his fellow overseas pro Ned Eckersley to train at their discretion. The competition’s relaxed nature led Mustard to describe it as “a bit like the Bunbury Festival with a Caribbean feel to it”.
“We basically had a six-week holiday which was fascinating,” Mustard explains. “Zimbabwe is stunning. We played golf and did Safari, you felt safe. There was even a Nando’s.”
Rayner also stressed that he felt safe during his stint. At the time, some players were unwilling to go to Zimbabwe due to safety concerns.
“I would have gone again,” says Rayner. “But my team-mates asked ‘how was it?’ and I said ‘It was brilliant’. They then put their names in and I didn’t get selected for the next year! I should have said ‘It was an absolute trap. Avoid it like the plague!’”
The Zimbabwean T20 League still exists, but no longer attracts a raft of overseas talent.
Bangladesh: ‘Franchise owners were buying the corrupt players’
The Bangladesh Premier League was formed in 2012 and has since become a highly-professionalised fixture on the T20 circuit. It was a very different affair in its first two seasons. Mustard played those two seasons too, where he had Chris Gayle and Brad Hodge for team-mates and Saeed Ajmal as an opponent.
Away from the cricket, the experience was challenging.
“I went expecting to get paid, which I didn’t. I got 25 per cent when I arrived but getting the rest was a challenge,” Mustard recalls. “I chased up the owner and the response was ‘P*** off’, basically.
“The likes of Gayle, Ajmal and Shahid Afridi got their money in the bank before arriving. I was not in a position to demand that.
“The second season, I again got a certain percentage before arriving and the same thing happened. But as a cricketing experience, it was fantastic.”
Corruption was also an issue in the early years of the BPL. In 2013, nine players were charged with corruption and Mohammad Ashraful, among others, was convicted and banned for eight years (later reduced to five).
Mustard believes corruption was rife during his time in Bangladesh, despite anti-corruption officials travelling with teams and attending the matches.
“The owners of the franchises were buying the players who would do things,” says Mustard. “I look back on it and think ‘wow’. One day a team was getting 160 off 10 overs, the next match they were on 25 with no wickets down. I could have bowled and they wouldn’t have hit me off the square!
“All I knew is that you have to get on the bus at 10am because we were playing Dhaka or Chittagong. Off you go, play a bit of cricket.”
Tymal Mills has played in the BPL more recently and says it remains challenging.
“You don’t really leave the hotel for five weeks,” he says. “Whether the cricket is good or bad, it helps to have something away from it. One of the challenges of franchise cricket is you don’t quite get those releases.
“Unfortunately, you hear a lot of stories about mental health issues where players have a bad day then just sit in their room all night so they can’t escape it.”