The franchise-based Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) T20 is underway in less than a week. All the star local players as well as high-profile overseas recruits will set the stage on fire. Shakib Al Hasan, one of the most sought-after names in T20 cricket, will play for Fortune Barishal. Not only Shakib, but they have also roped in some of the biggest names in this form of the game and emerged as one of the most expensive teams in the tournament.
The first name of the team - Fortune - comes from Fortune Shoes Limited, the company that owns the team. The Business Standard's (TBS) Shanto Mahmud caught up with the chairman of the company Md. Mizanur Rahman who happens to be the chairman of the team as well.
Fortune Shoes Limited was also the owner of Fortune Barishal in the 2020 Bangabandhu T20 Cup. Mizanur Rahman, who is also the chairman of a club in Bangladesh's domestic set-up spoke in detail about his team in the BPL, his plans for the future and the reason behind bagging the ownership of Fortune Barishal in the BPL.
The Business Standard: You have secured the ownership of Fortune Barishal in the BPL. So, how are things going on right now?
Mizanur Rahman: All good so far. You know, we have signed Shakib Al Hasan, Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Mujeeb ur Rahman [from outside the draft]. Some of the best players in the world will play for our team. So I believe we have done our homework pretty well.
TBS: How much do you expect from this team? How far can they go in the tournament?
Mizanur: Look, sometimes the best team in the world on paper cannot produce good results. I think it all depends on the atmosphere of the dressing room and how the players bond with each other. I believe pressurising players won't bring the best out of them. Rather they should be given space, a comfort zone. They should be motivated. We are going to provide the players with all these.
"Sometimes the best team in the world on paper cannot produce good results. I think it all depends on the atmosphere of the dressing room and how the players bond with each other. I believe pressurising players won't bring the best out of them. Rather they should be given space, a comfort zone."
TBS: How did you get involved with cricket? To be more specific, why did you choose BPL?
Mizanur: Who doesn't love cricket in Bangladesh? You, I and the crores of people in the country love the game. I got involved with cricket completely out of love for the game.
TBS: Before this, did you have any kind of activity related to cricket?
Mizanur: Not on any big platform like this, but I am the chairman of the cricket committee of Brothers Union in Premier Division Cricket. So I was involved with cricket but not on big platforms like the BPL.
TBS: To secure the ownership, you had to spend BDT 1 crore and an additional 4 crores on players' fees. So how much does one have to spend to run a team on such a massive platform?
Mizanur: We had previously signed Niroshan Dickwella and Danushka Gunathilaka but they won't be available because of some issues. Then we got a replacement in Dwayne Bravo. We have signed world-class players from outside the draft. So ours is quite an expensive team. To run a team in a franchise league like the BPL, one needs to spend BDT 10-12 crores. As we couldn't give our sponsors good mileage, I am afraid we won't be able to extract even 20% profit. I have heard that spectators won't be allowed inside stadiums. So that's a big blow too.
TBS: For different reasons, high-profile overseas players are not coming to the BPL. You are spending BDT 10-12 crores in a tournament that is not going to be that colourful. As a businessman, why are you investing in this?
Mizanur: Still a lot of big players come and play in the BPL. I would like to thank the BCB because they reduced the number of foreign players to three in the XI. I would be happier if two more teams were added. Then we could have 40 more local players playing on a big stage. We could have discovered 10 more talented players. I support the local players more than the foreign players. Last year, a tournament [Bangabandhu T20 Cup] was held without foreign players. It was a superb tournament. In one of the matches, we chased down 220-odd with one over to spare. People watched that tournament too and enjoyed it.
TBS: So you're not expecting to make any profit from here?
Mizanur: If you think long-term, then profits will come. Look at the IPL, look at the Kolkata Knight Riders. They always have a long-term plan. Their squad is almost fixed and they plan according to that. They scout players, arrange conditioning camps etc. So if the BCB makes a long-term plan regarding the BPL, then I think the franchises will make some profit.
"If the BCB makes a long-term plan regarding the BPL, then I think the franchises will make some profit."
TBS: What are the sources of income for your team in the BPL if we keep the BCB and the prize money aside?
Mizanur: Only sponsorships. But because of Covid-19, the response is poor. We are now trying to find something else as a source of income.
TBS: You are spending a lot of money to run this team. If you become champions, the prize money is only BDT 1 crore and if you come in second, you will get half the amount. Is the amount sufficient?
Mizanur: I don't want to comment on this. I am sure the BCB thought about it a lot and made this decision keeping everything in mind.
TBS: Were you aware of the amount of the prize money at the time of securing the ownership?
Mizanur: No, the decision came a couple of weeks later.
TBS: Would you have still taken ownership if you knew about the prize money earlier?
Mizanur: Look, only two teams are getting that money. So it doesn't really matter, does it?
TBS: So is it only about getting coverage on a big platform?
Mizanur: Ours is an export-oriented company. So we are not getting the coverage or mileage we need. At the end of the day, we want the people of Bangladesh to watch and enjoy good cricket. That's why we are here.
TBS: You are talking about the betterment of cricket. But it's domestic cricket where you can work for the betterment of the game, not the BPL. Do you have any plans for domestic cricket?
Mizanur: Of course. I am involved with a club in the domestic set-up. Besides, I want to set up an academy in Barishal Division. After the stadium is ready, we will start player hunts. We will try to involve the schools as well. You cannot just blame the BCB and the BFF. The schools have almost stopped sporting activities. A championship between divisional teams has to held and that's how talented players can rise through the ranks.
"I am involved with a club in the domestic set-up. Besides, I want to set up an academy in Barishal Division. After the stadium is ready, we will start player hunts. We will try to involve the schools as well. You cannot just blame the BCB and the BFF. The schools have almost stopped sporting activities. A championship between divisional teams has to hold and that's how talented players can rise through the ranks."
TBS: The activity of the team is limited to the couple of months when the tournament is nearing and underway. Do you have plans to expand the range and conduct a few programs that will run all year long?
Mizanur: We almost started a player hunt last year but suddenly Covid-19 obstructed our progress. If we get long-term ownership, then we will think about such things. We are very interested in player hunts. We can telecast the final round of the program on TV when, say, 25 players are shortlisted. That's when our sponsors will come into play.
TBS: In the IPL, names of most of the teams have not changed yet. But in the BPL, every year the names of the teams change with change of ownership. Is this a factor that contributes to the lack of popularity of the BPL?
Mizanur: That's why I am always talking about long-term plans. If a franchise gets long-term ownership, then there is no reason to change the name. It will help establish a stable fan base. If the BCB plans long-term regarding the BPL, it will be beneficial for cricket.
TBS: Would you like to tell us about your company in brief?
Mizanur: I had an import-oriented company called MG Trading. We used to import door locks. I faced a big loss in 2004 because of a tax increase. In 2004, I moved to the manufacturing business. We set up a cutting and dyeing factory, embroidery factory and other backward linkage factories. In 2006, we set up a footwear factory. Now we have seven such factories and I think we are the highest exporting company in Bangladesh.
Translated by- AHM Nayeem