‘This one is definitely special’

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The roar that Russell let out after bowling the last ball of the Bangabandhu Bangladesh Premier League final against Khulna Tigers yesterday was in stark contrast to the steely calm he portrayed after hitting the winning six to seal a scarcely believable win over Chattogram Challengers in the second qualifier on Wednesday.

Another stellar performance from the Rajshahi Royals captain had sealed the BBPL trophy for a team that looked out of the running just two days before the final. When he single-handedly won the qualifier against Chattogram from a virtually unsalvageable position, the powerful West Indian all-rounder knew the job was not yet complete. But when he bowled the last over and kept Khulna to 149 for eight, in chase of 171, he knew that he and his teammates had brought the trophy home after a gruelling campaign.

He was recognised for his performance in the final – a 16-ball 27 the bat and two for 32 with the ball – with the player-of-the-match trophy and for his leadership throughout the tournament, he was a deserved winner of the player-of-the-tournament honours.

“This one is definitely special to me as this is my first time winning any title as a captain,” a satisfied Russell said at the post-match press conference yesterday. “Bowling selections and thinking about all those things, and also using myself as I have to bowl as well. As a captain you are an all-rounder and you can’t be selfish and keep the guys confident. Everyone answered and came to the party tonight.”

Rajshahi opener Afif Hossain had said that Russell, a laid-back personality, gave the team belief with his relaxed attitude. It showed in the team’s performance as at different times different players stepped up. Yesterday, it was local batsman Irfan Sukkur who hit his first 50 of the edition to set up the stage for Russell and Mohammad Nawaz to take 70 runs from the last five overs.

In the process, Russell managed what even countryman and born leader Darren Sammy had failed to do – become the first foreign captain to win the trophy.

“It’s actually a good feeling, as I didn’t notice,” Russell said when told of the feat. “Thanks for putting the belief on me and I also had the belief on myself to contribute as much I can.

“It wasn’t that difficult after playing first two games and a few practice sessions together… you know that helped me to get to know each player. I noticed everyone in practice and planned how to use each bowler.”

One of the T20 mercenaries in world cricket, Russell said that more than the money, it was important to win the title.

“In every franchise cricket tournament every player looks forward to the prize money. But winning the title is the biggest thing. It might sound like I don’t like money, but the local guys who are always around the team, it’s just to make sure they get taken care of. But this [winning] is what matters the most.”

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