Bangladesh Cricket League 2012-13 December 26, 2012

North Zone look the strongest of the BCL teams

The Bangladesh Cricket League, the country's second first-class tournament, kicks off on Thursday in Mirpur and Bogra. We take a look at the four zonal teams that are made up of Bangladesh's top cricketers.

North Zone

Mushfiqur Rahim, the Bangladesh captain, will lead the northern region and will have several of his Rajshahi Division team-mates in the side, though there is a fair smattering of players from Rangpur Division. Junaid Siddique, Jahurul Islam, Naeem Islam, Farhad Hossain, Shafiul Islam and Saqlain Sajib make up a side that can be considered the strongest on paper because of their first-class record.

Youngsters like allrounder Mahmudul Hasan, left-arm spinner Sanjamul Islam and batsman Litton Kumar Das will add variety to the squad while the experience of Farhad Reza and Suhrawadi Shuvo makes it a tough job for the team's selectors to pick an eleven without leaving out two or three big-name players.

East Zone

Nafees Iqbal is the captain of a team that has to surprise the other three teams in the competition in order to progress. Mominul Haque and Faisal Hossain are the most in-form batsmen in the squad and a lot will rest on the shoulders of this duo, one young and one experienced.

The older lot including the likes of Aftab Ahmed, Alok Kapali and the captain Nafees will be expected to bat as they usually do, though Aftab and Nafees haven't been successful first-class players in the last few years. East's strength would be in the bowling, especially with left-arm spinner Enamul Haque, the National Cricket League's leading wicket-taker for two seasons now, to take up the responsibility.

The language barrier between the players will require a lot of adjustment. Chittagong and Sylhet are regions with very different dialects from each other, as well as the Bengali that is spoken in the other parts of the country.

Central Zone

Bangladesh vice-captain Mahmudullah will lead a side made up of players from Dhaka Metropolis and Dhaka Division, this year's runners-up side in the NCL. It is an experienced side with ten international cricketers, though the uncapped Marshall Ayub also adds batting strength.

Marshall, the NCL's top-scorer with 604 runs at an average of 67.11, has scored a double-hundred and a century in his eleven innings for Dhaka Metropolis, while Mehrab Hossain jnr and Shamsur Rahman will also take charge of the batting order. The bowling is spin-based with left-arm spinners Mosharraf Hossain and Elias Sunny, though Talha Jubair and Shahadat Hossain are quick bowlers who are in form.

They have all played together in the Dhaka Division side before the BCB formed the Dhaka Metropolis side last season, so familiarity won't be a problem for these players.

South Zone

This team consists of players from the defending NCL champions Khulna Division, and many of them have done well individually. Barisal Division is the other team in the franchise, and will be represented by the likes of Sohag Gazi and Kamrul Islam Rabbi, among others.

The Khulna players will do most of the running with the bat, as the likes of Imrul Kayes, Mohammad Mithun and Tushar Imran have been scoring well in the NCL, while allrounders Ziaur Rahman and Gazi will balance the side. Left-arm spinner Abdur Razzak will lead the side and will form an excellent spin attack with Murad Khan and the offspin of Gazi.

The big miss, however, will be Shakib Al Hasan, though it is likely that if South Zone make it to the final, he would have sufficiently recovered from his shin injury by then. Shahriar Nafees, the Bangladesh No. 3 batsman, has also not been considered till now, because of his unavailability for Barisal. It was learned that the franchise are likely to include him from the second round.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent