Dhaka spurred towards title by horror 2011-12
Dhaka Division made a late rally to become National Cricket League champions for a fifth time. This fighting spirit was born out of the frustration of finishing last two seasons ago, when they lost six out of seven first-round matches.
Their previous title came in the 2006-07 season and afterwards they have finished runners-up twice, 2010-11 and last season, and generally played second fiddle to Rajshahi Division's dominance.
"We had a bit of anger about finishing last in the 2011-12 season and ending up as runners-up last season," Dhaka captain Mohammad Sharif said. "We wanted to do better this season, and decided that we must play well together, and not just as individuals. It is far easier to handle young and professionally mature players, as opposed to ten big stars.
"We usually don't take too much time to prepare and it was not different this time too. We did play a one-day practice game against Bangladesh Under-19 squad before the NCL began and I think that, and the two-day camp in BKSP afterwards, helped us a lot."
They started off with a ten-wicket win over Rangpur Division with three centuries coming in their first innings of the season. Chittagong Division were also crushed in the next game but Dhaka lost to Sylhet Division and drew with Rajshahi. They won one more game before the domestic season went into hibernation for the World T20.
When the league restarted, they held on to their strong position at the top by picking up wins over Barisal Division and defending champions Khulna Division in their last game.
For Dhaka, it has been the unheralded opening pair of Abdul Mazid and Rony Talukder whose solid starts has laid the foundation often. Individually, Mazid is the tournament's top-scorer with 614 runs at an average of exactly 69 with two centuries and two fifties. Rony averages 50, having scored 500 runs with one century. They have added a 197-run stand and five 50-plus stands for the opening wicket.
"Our opening pair of Mazid and Rony has been the difference between us and other teams," Sharif said. "Mazid is the highest scorer but Rony too has often done well. Their good starts has reduced the pressure on the middle-order, which has helped us put up good totals.
"Mazid has been in and out for the last two seasons but this year he has made the place his own. He did well in the Dhaka Premier League, which also helped his confidence."
Like Mazid, Nurul Hasan, Shuvagata Hom and Taibur Rahman have scored two centuries each. Five out of the top ten scorers in the tournament are from Dhaka.
In the bowling department, left-arm spinner Nazmul Islam has been accurate, picking up 31 wickets and becoming the second highest wicket-taker behind Monir Hossain. Legspinner Noor Hossain has taken 21 wickets while captain Sharif took 20 scalps.
He was instrumental in the 2006-07 season as well, picking up 30 wickets. This season he has reached 300 first-class cricket wickets, having completed 13 seasons at this level.
Sharif however wasn't happy with the surfaces this year, saying that he has hardly came across a sporting surface in the country.
"Last year I think there was sporting wickets in Rajshahi and Khulna early in the season but that was just for one match. But over the last 13 seasons, I have always seen graveyards for fast bowlers. It doesn't help the batsmen, especially those aspiring to play for the country.
"A lot of runs are scored and I am not just speaking as a bowler. I don't think it helps the batsmen one bit, by always batting in wickets where the ball bounces below the knee. When they take one step up, they see the difference," he said.
The NCL has long been called "picnic tournament" by players and coaches because of its financial stature in Bangladesh's domestic cricket, which has caused almost everyone to neglect it. Sharif has seen it all at this level and above, having played 10 Tests and nine ODIs between 2001 and 2007. His experience has helped Dhaka win the title but he has taken the extra step to take a look at the broader picture, as he firmly believes it is not about winning a title when the tournament is not played on the best possible surfaces.
"You do need to give something to the bowlers. I see my batsmen doing well, working hard and bringing us the wins but if the bowlers are neglected like this, it doesn't help the country's cause," he said.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84