Collectivism vs individualism
It will be a case of Rajshahi's collective effort taking on the individual might of Khulna when the sides meet in the National Cricket League final, which begins today at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium. The five-day game in Mirpur will be shown live on BTV World from 9:30am.
The defending champions have a chance to win four first-class tournaments in a row after winning the last three while Khulna was the last team other than Rajshahi to win the tournament, and that was back in the 2007-08 season.
Khulna will rely on the likes of Anamul Haque, Tushar Imran, Soumya Sarkar and Mithun Ali who have scored in excess of 450 runs while Dollar Mahmud, Al-Amin Hossain, Murad Khan and Abdur Razzak have picked up more than 30 wickets. Such performances have helped Khulna remain at the top of the points table and dominate wins and drawn games. Rajshahi however banks on several performers and team spirit which is second to none. Though they have the likes of Mizanur Rahman, Farhad Hossain and Junaed Siddique making the runs, it is the percentage players like skipper Forhad Reza, Jubair Ahmed and the strong bowling attack comprising of Saqlain Sajib, Sanjamul Islam and Mukhtar Ali which keeps them ahead of the rest.
Rajshahi have so far won seven out of the ten games, losing the other three; clearly, they have a positive approach. "We always set out to win," said Forhad ahead of the game, "but we are up against a good team like Khulna who has several in-form players."
"I think we did lose a few players to Rangpur. Naeem Islam, Dhiman Ghosh and Sohrawardi Shuvo have won a lot of games for Rajshahi but we were always confident that our next lot, the likes of Sabbir Rahman and Sanjamul Islam, have done really well," he added. Interestingly, Rajshahi won the last two finals (after the format was introduced in 2009-10) on the first innings lead.
There will be mini battles aplenty as well with the in-form Anamul expected to be a handful for the disciplined Rajshahi bowlers. The right-handed BKSP alumni who was in the Asia Cup squad has scored plenty of runs this season as well as hitting centuries in the last two of his three innings in domestic cricket. Soumya Sarkar and Imrul Kayes will complement Anamul while skipper Tushar and Mithun are also among runs. Mithun and Anamul will have a battle within the team with both having scored three centuries each.
The only weakness as such for Rajshahi would be their batting as they haven't quite hit the straps in a big way. Khulna, on the other hand, have a bowling attack that boasts someone like the left-arm spinner Razzak who has had plenty of impact in the five matches he's played.
Both teams have displayed tremendous enthusiasm in the heat of April and especially despite the hasty arrangement and lack of regard for the tournament by the Bangladesh Cricket Board.
The Rajshahi-Khulna final was an opportunity to promote first-class cricket but the NCL has remained a third consideration behind the Dhaka Premier Cricket League and Bangladesh Premier League T20s. But it is refreshing to witness cricketers taking the longer-format seriously, even when they have to reach the field three hours before the start of play and with the impending threat of bad weather.
In fact the biggest hindrance for the four divisional sides in the second phase has been the question of restarting their training. The board wasn't supposed to hold the remaining matches at this time and it eventually left Khulna and Rajshahi with very little time to rest their legs ahead of such a big game.
They got only a single day in between their last league phase game and the final.