The special edition of the Bangladesh Premier League, named the Bangabandhu Bangladesh Premier League (BBPL) to commemorate the birth centenary of father of the nation Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, will culminate today with the final between Rajshahi Royals and Khulna Tigers. The two captains were all smiles on the eve of the title decider during a trophy unveiling ceremony at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium yesterday.
Mushfiqur Rahim’s face lit up once the curtain was removed to reveal the trophy. He uttered a ‘wow’ when he saw the trophy, one he is yet to get his hands on in his glittering career. In fact, Mushfiqur will be playing in his first BPL final tomorrow. Having never quite found his comfort zone with various franchises in the past, this time he led his side from the front. But Rajshahi Royals, and especially their captain Andre Russell, will be a huge roadblock in Mushfiqur’s quest for a maiden BPL trophy.
Having already won a BPL trophy while playing for Dhaka Dynamites in 2016, this edition has been Russell’s first stint as captain. He was not keen on focusing on any one particular player from Khulna, saying: “We’re not going to look at any individual players.”
Thwarted by an extraordinary innings from Cumilla Victorians’ Tamim Iqbal in last season’s final, it would have been playing on Russell’s mind that a significant performance from a top batsman could change the scenario in the all-important final.
“You never know whose day it will be tomorrow and you can’t stop them. They have a lot of match-winners, so we’re going to plan for the entire team. We’re going to make sure that we plan properly and come out and execute,” Russell told reporters yesterday.
But the West Indies all-rounder is one cool customer, as opening batsman Afif Hossain said in a recent interview. “He relaxes the atmosphere,” Afif had said.
Russell injects belief as well and perhaps that has contributed to the opening pair of Afif and Liton Das raising hell in the Powerplays all tournament. Despite not coming up with the goods in their last two fixtures, Russell expected the openers to come up trumps today.
“They struggled last game but I am not going to say they don’t help and I think they are going to give us the start that we really need tomorrow [Friday]. We know we didn’t win against those guys [Khulna] a couple of nights ago but I hope they [the openers] keep doing well, keep expressing themselves and with confidence,” he said knowing that the opponent’s openers are also in form, with Nazmul Hossain Shanto in particular finding his groove at the right moment.
The toss was crucial for the Rajshahi skipper and he wanted to bat first and put on above 170 runs to put the pressure on Khulna’s batting order.
Above all, his innings under dire circumstances on Wednesday night when he single-handedly carried the team to the final with a last-over defeat of Chattogram Challengers has put the wind back in their sails. He certainly was not feeling any pressure. “I am accustomed to pressure.”
Both Russell and Mushfiqur will know that it is about handling that pressure on the given day.
“We have nothing else on our minds other than winning. The way we played last night [Wednesday] as a team, we showed what we can do and I hope we can give a good account of ourselves tomorrow [Friday] night,” Russell said.