High flying Gazi Group Chattogram are determined to come all guns blazing as they face Gemcon Khulna in the Bangabandhu T20 Cup final at Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium in the capital on Friday.
Star-studded Khulna will be looking to make sure that the absence of their key player Shakib Al Hasan doesn’t make them pay in the final while they will be hoping that Mashrafe Mortaza comes up with another stellar performance which helped them reach the final on first chance.
“There is no doubt that the arrival of Mashrafe Bhai is a very positive sign for our team. He is very experienced if we can utilise some of his experience, it will be beneficial for the team as well as for me,” said Mahmudullah Riyad.
“This is why I always talk to Mashrafe Bhai and try to come up with a lot of ideas because he is not just one of the most successful captains in the history of Bangladesh, he also has won four Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) trophies and four finals. His experience is certainly noteworthy,” he said adding that they are expected to miss the presence of Shakib though he never looked to dominate in the tournament.
Shakib flew to USA after the first Qualifier game in which Khulna beat Chattogram by 47 runs to move to the final to be with his ailing father-in-law. Later, his father-in-law passed away before he could reach USA.
The ace all-rounder hinted at a possible return to form, playing a crucial role in Khulna’s win over Chattogram after his failure throughout the group phase. Therefore Shakib’s absence has created sort of a vacuum, something which Khulna would like to fill.
“If we had Shakib, it would have worked as a big positive for us because we all know about Shakib’s capability. Even then, since Shakib is not there, it is a responsibility and an opportunity for all of us to rise up to the occasion,” said Mahmudullah who is eyeing to pick his maiden championship in the shortest format despite leading Khulna in Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) for quite some time. Chattogram, mostly formed with the T20 specialists, demonstrated their caliber by winning seven of the eight matches of the group-phase. They topped the table with some margin as the second placed Khulna won just four matches.
In the double-leg group phase, Chattogram defeated Khulna twice, in first occasion, beating them by 9 wickets quite convincingly after shooting out Mahmudullah Riyad-led side for 86 runs and second time, though they faced a tough battle, still came out winners with a three-wicket victory.
But Khulna’s big guns delivered in the first Qualifier with Mashrafe ending with his maiden T20 fifer and deprived Chattogram the chance to claim the final berth on their first chance. That didn’t matter for Chattogram as they won the second Qualifier, crushing Beximco Dhaka by seven wickets.
Thus the top two teams of the tournament moved to the final, making it a high-voltage game.
Even though they lost just two games on their way to their final, Chattogram Head Coach Mohammad Salahuddin kept Khulna ahead in the crucial game because of their vast experience.
“I think in T20 games, experience always matters. Both of the teams are bolstered with experienced players but Khulna has more experience and so they are ahead of us,” Salahuddin said.
That doesn’t mean Salahuddin will give up the hope of winning the trophy.
“During the players’ draft, we tried to rope in experienced and T20 experts for every position. I think our middle order is strong and they will deliver when it matters most,” he concluded.