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Old January 9, 2008, 12:47 PM
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Isam's review of the season -

A first-class bonus
Mohammad Isam

When Ban-gladesh Cri-cket Board (BCB) ambitiously pla-nned a mid-October start to this season's local cricket, some believed it could not go through. And they had their reasons: seasonal rain wasn't receding and the different grounds across the country were not up to scratch. Today, after National Cricket League's resounding success, dynamics of domestic cricket, it seems, is going to be changed for the good.

Cricketers now believe that they don't have to think twice to go ahead in their respective careers. They can be confident of a fixed schedule, deserving financial package and more importantly, opportunity to play regularly. In previous years, numerous talented cricketers preferred other options because of domestic cricket's uncertainty.

The ninth edition of National Cricket League was refurbished with healthy money, a revamped points system and more importantly, availability of national players in the six divisions. Dhaka, Chittagong, Khulna, Rajshahi, Sylhet and Barisal had their strengths balanced out by the national selectors.

What followed was a fascinating three months of first-class and one-day cricket, some of which were shown live on television. Here we take a look at some of the highs and lows of NCL 2007-08.


SAJID'S RISE

Sajidul Islam, born in Rangpur and bred at BKSP, was sent to Barisal to try his luck last season. He was erratic and had a slight weight issue going at that time but manage to string together some good spells at the fag end.

This season, the young left-armer had fire in his belly. Along with a revived Talha Jubair, he gave Barisal the much-required firepower. It is no coincidence that Barisal's good form and Sajid's rise have gone hand in hand. So much was his impact that when Syed Rasel dislocated his shoulder in New Zealand, Sajid was hurried off and since then, the 19-year-old has been a revelation.


MASHRAFE'S WEEK

Khulna gave an early indication of their dominance with their brilliant start against defending champions Dhaka during the first round. After the hosts snuck a draw in the four-day affair, Mashrafe Bin Mortaza put together a stunning show with the new and old ball in the one-dayer, taking three for 25.

His hostile pace and swing was eye-catching and it gave everyone a window into Khulna's mindset this season after they had a wretched time in 2006-07 when they finished at the bottom of NCL.


DOLLAR COSTLY
FOR RAJSHAHI

Rajshahi, with a mediocre team and Khaled Mashud's assertive leadership, were the NCL forerunners before they ran into Dollar Mahmud. The under-19 paceman took the first-ever hattrick (wickets of Zunaed Siddiqui, Nayeem Islam and Mushfiqur Rahman in successive balls) in Bangladesh's first-class history during that crucial fourth round match between the two top sides. And then Dollar's hit to the boundary off the penultimate ball of the match made sure his earlier heroics wouldn't go to waste. Khulna's first win and Rajshahi's first defeat meant that the top position would go to Khulna for the first time in three seasons.


THUMBS DOWN TO PITCHES AND UMPIRING

Some match results were altered due to poor decisions and in one instance, the umpires' lapses were heavily exposed on live television. There seem to be a giant gap between the good and average umpires and with half the season already left to play, a look into their allocation, education and most importantly, their professionalism is a must.

So too should be on pitches. It is astounding that BCB has no technical support in this regard. Players have repeatedly questioned the quality of pitches but so far, nothing has gone in the right direction in this case as well.


PILING UP THE RUNS

Twenty-two centuries were scored this season with Shakib Al Hasan, Imrul Kayes, Alok Kapali and Imtiaz Hossain notching two each. Almost all the usual suspects reached that milestone but the most unlikely of them was that of Rajshahi's number 10 batsman Mohammad Shahjada. Chittagong's Nazimuddin made 720 in 20 innings, closely followed by his captain Ehsanul Haq with 688.

Rokibul Hasan, the forceful Barisal batsman, mirrored Kayes's consistency as the two headed the one-day batting charts. Kayes led the way with 486 with two centuries while Rokibul notched up 432 runs. Unfathomable Alok Kapali had a good run in both forms of the game and it's fitting that his 168 against Barisal at Fatullah is the highest score by a batsman this season.

But 168 was as far the batsmen could go. Let alone a triple like Rokib's 313, there were no double hundreds to show for.


THE SEARCH IS STILL ON

NCL have unearthed several talents but with the disputed position of a wicketkeeper in the national side lingering since Mashud's waning, it is regretful that none of the stumpers in action had much of an impact. Some faith was placed in Dhiman Ghosh after his summer showing in Australia with Academy team but he too frustrated with his unpredictability.

And yes, a good off-spinner is still not in sight. BCB must address this issue at the grassroots, i.e., age-group camps where the ratio of left-arm spinners to leggies or offies are too high.


A SUITABLE HEIR

While off-spinners were missing in action, left-arm spinners ruled the roost, particularly Mosharraf Hossain Rubel. Some would say that the man from Kishoreganj has finally reached his potentials but he has a long way to go. Apart from his 44 wickets that put him on top of the first-class bowlers' list, it was his match-winning ability that always kept Dhaka in the hunt.

After some gutsy performances with the bat, the revolving door of Dhaka's batting line-up saw him in number three in the one-dayers from where he struck three fifties. That translated into Rubel being predicted as Mohammad Rafique's long-time replacement in the national side.

Rafique himself has said that Rubel has a bright future.

http://www.thedailystar.net/story.php?nid=18565
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