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'Nawaz gave us the punch we needed' - Russell

The Rajshahi captain credits the Pakistan allrounder for taking the pressure off him and helping the side to the BPL title

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
Andre Russell looks on  •  Getty Images

Andre Russell looks on  •  Getty Images

Rajshahi Royals captain Andre Russell has credited Mohammad Nawaz for taking the pressure off him and helping the side to the BPL title on Friday. The pair plundered 71 off 34 balls, with Nawaz surprisingly dominating the partnership with an unbeaten 41 off 20 balls. The stand lifted Rajshahi to 170 for 4, which proved 21 too many for Khulna Tigers.
Russell also praised wicketkeeper-batsman Irfan Sukkur for his fifty under pressure in the first half of Rajshahi's innings. Sukkur became the first uncapped Bangladesh player to hit a half-century in the BPL final.
"Once I was there until the end, we could definitely be more aggressive," Russell said. "[Khulna] bowl well in the death but when two good batters [are] swinging from the hips, anything can happen. Well played to [Mohammad] Nawaz. He took a lot of pressure off me. He gave us the punch that we needed going into bowling. Irfan Sukkur is big-hearted guy. I have been telling him to believe in himself, you can hit the ball. Just be positive. When a big player speaks to these guys, they can move mountains."
Russell, who became the first overseas captain to lift the BPL title, said that he didn't find it too difficult to deal with domestic cricketers.
"It wasn't that difficult [to be a foreign captain]," he said. "The first week, a few practice sessions and the first two games, was the time to know what each player is about - whether a bowler was better with the new ball, in the middle overs or at the death. It took me a few games but everyone really pulled through when I called on them. Rabbi bowled well tonight. Irfan has been doing well."
Russell said that he wanted to make sure that the domestic cricketers and the helpers around the team get paid, even though there was no prize money in this tournament. In the last BPL, the champions received BDT 2 crore (USD 250,000) while the runners-up side got BDT 85 lakh (USD 106,250).
"In franchise cricket, every player looks forward to the prize money," he said. "But for me, winning the tournament is everything. It might sound like I don't like money. "I just want to make sure that these local guys who helps us with our bags and always around the team, is taken care of. They get some bonus. I am happy once they and the local players are taken care of. This is what matters the most."
Russell also said that he enjoyed his stint with Rajshahi with whom he had won his first T20 tournament as a captain. "It is actually a good feeling," he said. "I didn't really notice [that I was the first foreign captain to win the BPL]. They trusted my ability. I believe in myself as well, to get the job done. I contributed as much as I could. We had a very good unit. Everyone showed up tonight.
"My first championship as a captain is really special to me. As a captain, you don't want to be selfish. At the same time, you have to believe in other bowlers. Everyone answered and came to the party tonight."

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84