The 18th edition of the country’s premier first-class competition, the NCL, gets underway this Sunday at four different venues – Rajshahi, Bogra, Khulna and Sylhet.
The National Cricket League, set to be played in two tiers for only the second time ever, will be contested by Barisal, Dhaka Metropolis, Khulna and Dhaka in the top tier while the bottom tier features Rajshahi, Rangpur, Chittagong and Sylhet.
Here, Dhaka Tribune Sport previews two teams – Rajshahi and Rangpur – ahead of the tournament opener this Sunday.
Perhaps the most sincere side in the NCL, Rajshahi had a disappointing finish last year. They won two matches to go level with Barisal in tier two but the latter were promoted to tier one, courtesy a better points finish.
Rajshahi are blessed to have a sound cricket infrastructure that not only ensures that their divisional cricketers are on track but also produces cricketers for mainstream cricket.
With the presence of experienced campaigners like batsman Jahurul Islam and all-rounder Farhad Reza, the side are looking forward to living up to their reputation this year. The players are aware that they have not given their best in the last two seasons so there is enough will in the dressing room now to return to the glory days of the past. Considering the youngsters in the team, the side are expecting Nazmul Hossain Shanto to deliver. At the same time, they will also place high expectations upon the 31-year-old right-arm pacer Abdullah al Mamun.
Rangpur finished last in tier one in the 2015-16 edition of the tournament to emerge as the first team to get demoted to the second tier. The side, filled with cricketers who have a lot of experience, had a disastrous season last time around, losing two matches and drawing four. The side feature renowned names like Naeem Islam, Dhiman Ghosh and Sohrawardi Shuvo.
This year's preparation has been minimal as until yesterday the side had failed to group up. According to team members, many are undergoing personal training while there are a few who have practised in a group. They will begin the season against Chittagong in Khulna with only one target in mind - to stay at the summit of tier two and achieve promotion.