The franchise-based Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) T20 kicks off today. Minister Dhaka is one of the strongest teams in the tournament. The BCB had the responsibility of signing the players but the team is owned by the Minister Group.
In a conversation with The Business Standard's (TBS) Shanto Mahmud, MA Razzak Khan Raz, the chairman of the Minister Group, spoke in detail about the preparation, the reason behind choosing the BPL and his love for the game.
The Business Standard: You got the ownership of Minister Dhaka towards the end. Did you find it difficult to sort things out because of that?
MA Razzak Khan Raz: To be honest, although we bagged the ownership a bit late, we have sorted everything out pretty quickly. Still, there are a few things left but I feel we will complete everything before our first match takes place.
TBS: Would it be better for the franchises if the activities started a bit earlier?
Razzak Khan: Of course. If the activities started earlier, we would get enough time to prepare. So I am requesting the BCB to start the proceedings much before the tournament takes place so that we get some time to prepare ourselves.
TBS: Will the preparation be enough for the players of the team?
Razzak Khan: Keeping in mind the current circumstances, the BCB is going to host the tournament on short notice. The players have already started to practice ahead of their first match. I hope our team will play some really good cricket and give their hundred percent on the field.
TBS: The BCB had the responsibility of building this team. How far can this team go in the tournament?
Razzak Khan: Our signings have been excellent. We have got some very experienced players in our side. In the BPL, every team has the potential to win the title. I hope that our players will give their best and clinch the title.
TBS: Is it encouraging for you to have three senior players in Mashrafe Mortaza, Mahmudullah and Tamim Iqbal in the team?
Razzak Khan: Mashrafe's presence is always inspiring, be it on the field or in the dressing room. Then there are the likes of Tamim, Mashrafe, Rubel [Hossain], Arafat Sunny. We are extremely delighted to have these players in the team. Players like Andre Russell, Mohammad Shahzad, Isuru Udana, Qais Ahmad are also there.
TBS: Mashrafe has some injury issues and that is why you will miss his services in the initial few matches. He is doubtful for the rest of the tournament as well. Is it a big blow for you before the start of the tournament?
Razzak Khan: I don't want to comment on Mashrafe's injury issues. The coaches and the management will decide on his availability. We hope that he will play from the beginning. But his injury is not a big blow for us. But it would be great if he was available from the very first match.
TBS: A number of cricketers and coaching staff have tested positive for Covid-19 and the number can increase according to the BCB's medical team. Is it an additional challenge?
Razzak Khan: The whole world is facing this challenge right now. In Bangladesh, the number of people affected by the omicron variant is increasing as well. I have heard that some of the supporting staff have tested positive. We will go ahead keeping these things in mind. We will look to start things off following the Covid-19 protocols.
TBS: How did you get involved with cricket and what was the reason behind choosing the BPL?
Razzak Khan: Right from the beginning, the Minister Group has been patronising different sports in the country. We have been sponsoring home and away cricket series since 2014. We have been involved with the BPL since the start. Last year, the owner of the Rajshahi team was Minister Group. BPL is a big platform involving a lot of big-name local and overseas players.
TBS: Did you have any activity related to cricket before that?
Razzak Khan: Minister Group has been involved with cricket for a long time now. In 2014, we got engaged with the BCB. We have been title sponsors, associate sponsors in series at home and away. We have been patronising sports like football, volleyball as well.
TBS: You had to spend BDT 1 crore for the ownership and an additional BDT 4 crores for players' fees. How much money will you require in total to run the franchise?
Razzak Khan: I am not sure about that. Probably I can tell the exact figure after the tournament ends.
TBS: You have to spend a lot of money to run this team. As a businessman, do you expect to make profits from here?
Razzak Khan: You cannot think about profits everywhere. I may be a businessman, but can't I love sports? I love this game. That's why we have been involved with the game from the start. I will try to remain involved as long as I am here.
TBS: What are the sources of income in the BPL? Are they sufficient?
Razzak Khan: I did not think of profit when I got the ownership. A few other companies are associated with us. We will run this team with their assistance. We just want the on-field cricket to be entertaining. Incomes and profits will come after that.
TBS: So is it all about the marketing of the company? Is it worth it?
Razzak Khan: As I said earlier, this is not a place for business. I am here out of passion and love for the game. I consider myself very lucky to be involved with cricket.
TBS: The BCB is thinking long-term. They might opt for long-term deals with franchises. If this happens, will you still be involved with the BPL?
Razzak Khan: It's up to the BCB. But in the case of long-term ownership, franchisees will have enough time to make plans. Time will tell what we will do then. I don't want to say much now.
TBS: In the IPL, the names of most of the teams have not changed yet. But in the BPL, every year the names of the teams change with a change of ownership. Is this a factor that contributes to the lack of popularity of the BPL?
Razzak Khan: Fan base is never obliterated by a change in the team's name. Those who love the game will accept any name the franchises select. The change in the name of the team is pretty normal if a new franchise takes charge.
TBS: Does your company have a definite plan for Bangladesh cricket?
Razzak Khan: Minister Group has been with Bangladesh cricket since the beginning and will remain so in the future.
TBS: Would you tell us in brief about your company and your position in it?
Razzak Khan: I am the chairman of the Minister Group. Besides, I am the vice-president of FBCCI. Minister Group has established itself as a successful electronics brand and is working hard to be the leading brand in the world. More than 5000 people are currently working under the group.
Translated by AHM Nayeem