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All-round Dhaka Metropolis' best shot at maiden title

Dhaka Metropolis will welcome back Mohammad Ashraful ESPNcricinfo Ltd

Tier-one teams

Khulna Division, defending champions

Big Picture
Khulna won their fourth NCL title last season and will once again look to retain their place among the top first-class teams in the country. Like in seasons past, they will bank on their experienced cricketers like Abdur Razzak, Tushar Imran, Anamul Haque and Ziaur Rahman.

Young allrounders in Mehedi Hasan and Mahedi Hasan will give them more options in the middle-order and in the spin department, while Robiul Islam will have to lead the pace attack with Al-Amin Hossain and young Abdul Halim. Khulna will be without Imrul Kayes in the first two matches, but would hope to get hold of him after the England series.

Key player
Nurul Hasan is a wicketkeeper-batsman who is touted for big things in Bangladesh cricket. However, he has so far flattered to deceive at the highest level. He was Khulna's second highest run-scorer in last year's competition.

Below the radar
Spin bowling allrounder Nahidul Islam had a splendid run with Legends of Rupganj in the Dhaka Premier League earlier this year, but he will have to battle it out with the other young allrounders. He is a natural hitter who is also wily with his offbreaks and fields very well.

Dhaka Metropolis, second place

Big Picture
The return of Mohammad Ashraful is the big news from the Dhaka Metro camp. Though banned from international cricket until 2018, the former Bangladesh captain has been eligible for domestic cricket since August this year.

Ashraful will join Marshall Ayub, Shamsur Rahman and Mehrab Hossain jnr, while the aggressive opener Mehedi Maruf will give them a boost up front.

Their bowling will be led by Arafat Sunny, who was cleared by the ICC to bowl in international cricket, on Friday. Sunny now has a hugely modified action, and Bangladesh coach Chandika Hathurusingha said that his new action will be monitored closely in the coming weeks.

Dhaka Metro is one of the top teams to have never won the NCL title, but an all-round team that has plenty of experience should give them a chance this year.

Key player
Marshall Ayub has had an underwhelming international career so far, but he is slowly turning into a domestic run-machine. Crisp strokes, a phlegmatic attitude and firm footwork make him an important member of the Dhaka Metro batting line-up.

Below the radar
Though he has played for Bangladesh, Jubair Hossain has, off late, started to fade away. The legspinner now has a chance to revive his career, and the experienced Dhaka Metro side is a good place to start that process.

Dhaka Division, third place

Big Picture
Mohammad Sharif will once again lead a strong Dhaka Division side, which is made up of players from every district in the division, except the capital city, which is represented by Dhaka Metropolis. Abdul Majid, Rony Talukdar and Shuvagata Hom will be relied upon heavily in batting, while Mosharraf Hossain and Nazmul Islam, the left-arm spinners, will be expected to take many wickets.

The pace attack will have Shahadat Hossain, while seamers Mohammad Azim and Mahbubul Alam are likely to be rotated in the usually spin-friendly wickets. Dhaka Division's last championship-winning season was 2013-14.

Key player
Sharif, the captain, has been a strong performer for a number of years, and he has been in form lately too. He did well for Gazi Group Cricketers in the Dhaka Premier League and only just finished his stint in the English league circuit.

Below the radar
Saif Hassan has played first-class cricket, but after the Under-19 World Cup and an insipid Dhaka Premier League campaign, this is a chance for the young opener to get runs under his belt. He can be a heavy scorer but needs to adopt a steady approach.

Barisal Division, promoted from tier two

Big Picture
Barisal Division had performed poorly over the years, but gained promotion from Tier-2 in the previous season, after the NCL introduced a promotion-relegation system for the first time. They have never won the NCL title, but will be taken seriously this time because of their performance in the previous season.

Shahriar Nafees, Fazle Mahmud, Salman Hossain and Mohammad Al-Amin are their batting mainstays, while Kamrul Islam Rabbi, Sohag Gazi and Monir Hossain Khan will take care of the bowling duties.

Key player
Shahriar Nafees was the highest run-getter in the tournament last year with 715 runs at 79.44 in six matches. It earned him a call-up to the Bangladesh preliminary squad. Leaner and fitter now, he will be expected to churn out the runs once again.

Below the radar
Al-Amin was a revelation in this year's Dhaka Premier League, playing for Victoria Sporting Club. Stocky and a good timer of the ball, Al-Amin also bowls offspin, although Barisal would mostly want him to score the runs.

For a preview of tier-two teams, click here.