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Isam
September 27, 2010, 01:28 PM
Rajshahi: United for one last time
Mohammad Isam

Rajshahi left-arm spinner Sanjamul Islam was talking to this reporter several months ago about his impending big-money move in the Premier League. It was a happy conversation but when it unavoidably shifted to the certainty of Rangpur's participating in the National Cricket League, the normally jovial Sanjamul's mood shifted to sadness.

As you may know, Rangpur became the seventh division in the country earlier this year and at the time of the conversation, it was imminent that the northernmost division would have a team in the competition.

Sanjamul, who played only one first-class game last season but became a revelation in the struggling Surjo Tarun side as well as in the NCL T20s, rued the change as it would mean the divide of a successful Rajshahi team. Surprisingly, he went on and on about how he would miss his teammates though his position was not certain (Rajshahi or Rangpur) in any of the teams.

Naturally when the Rangpur team is formed, players like Naeem Islam (from Gaibandha district), Dhiman Ghosh (Dinajpur) and Sohrawardi Shuvo (Rangpur) would automatically qualify for the new division. Players from the other districts under the newly-created division -- Kurigram, Nilphamari, Panchagarh, Thakurgaon and Lalmonirhat would also have to do the shift.

But late in August, Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) confirmed that no such thing will happen this season and so, one can safely say that Rajshahi are firm favourites to complete a hattrick of titles in first-class cricket.

It could be the first time that a team completes the feat in this competition though Dhaka came close in 2005-06, incidentally the same year when Rajshahi won their maiden first-class trophy.

But the last two seasons have been completely dominated by the northwestern division, be it first-class, one-day or Twenty20. Rajshahi players have dominated so much that it was claimed after the 2008-09 season by a senior cricketer that players from the region racked up close to Tk 3 crore in earnings from different clubs in the Dhaka leagues.

That figure, though disputed in some quarters, is a reflection of how cricket has emerged as one of the top career choices in the sleepy town. Academies are sprouting in every field available and that has made sure of a healthy pipeline for players.

The path to the top for these youngsters is well marked out as they have several tournaments and leagues in the region throughout the year. The next step would be the Dhaka leagues and a good showing here would mean a call-up to the several camps run by former Bangladesh captain Khaled Mashud during the off-season in his academy. Show the right attitude and the ability to work hard and you have raw talents like leg-spinning all-rounder Sabbir Rahman Rumman making it big.

Here's a stat: out of the 59 Test cricketers in Bangladesh, ten are from the Rajshahi division.

One might wonder why this tournament preview has gone back to the grassroots but in writing about Rajshahi, one has to explore that deep.

Rajshahi is no Barisal, where talent is hired and sent by national selectors, nor is it like Dhaka, which is lucky to have districts like Faridpur, Mymensingh, Narayanganj and Jamalpur.

Rajshahi has made it this far on its own (a statement that normally rings true for great players overcoming adversity).

They took some time to become championship material but once they cracked it in 2006, they knew what it would take to dominate the longer-version.

Last season, they were in their elements again. Their tactic to make sure of a first-innings lead and then go for the kill is perceived as negative by some because they won just three games out of eight (runners-up Chittagong won five), but it won them the title with the same plan in the final (they won on the first-innings lead).

Jahurul Islam, who struck a ton in that final and was immediately called up to the national team, was the top run-scorer with a staggering 965 runs that included four centuries.

He will be sorely missed due to his commitment with the Tigers, but Farhad Hossain (797 runs at an average of 56.92) could make up for the loss along with the veteran Anisur Rahman and batting all-rounders Nasir Hossain and Forhad Reza.

Farhad has come of age as a gritty professional, preferred by most Premier League clubs in Dhaka. His batting provides stability and though he's not lightning in the field, his accurate off-spin makes up for it.

Rajshahi's bowling overall is strong too, with left-arm spinners Saqlain and Sanjamul along with youngster Suvashish Roy, Delwar Hossain, Monwar Hossain, the leg-spinner Sabbir and the above-mentioned all-rounders.

Apart from a balanced team, they have the crudely put “gang-mentality” that Mashud has drilled into the players. The veteran wicketkeeper and once the captain of the national team is the much-publicised father-figure of the team and when he tells them to stay together, they listen.

As with any other team, Rajshahi's dominance would be challenged as they begin their title-defence against Sylhet on October 4 at the Shamsul Huda Stadium in Jessore. The absence of Shuvo, Jahurul and Naeem could be a problem while there has always been the accusation that Rajshahi players have a selfish streak.

Apart from these, the question of Rangpur hangs like a sword over the team's head even as early as this season. Since that is coming to fruition next year, Rajshahi high-ups can be rest assured that Mashud is cooking up some plan to tackle the exodus and it would not be a surprise if they manage to overcome it.

Last year's position: Champions.

Strength: Unity.

Player to watch out for: Farhad Hossain.

Isam
September 28, 2010, 02:26 AM
And I thought Rajshahi was everyone's favorite team!
Not a single reply..

MohammedC
September 28, 2010, 03:53 AM
^^^ we are used to following the under achievers.
<br />Posted via BC Mobile Edition (iPhone)

riankhan
September 28, 2010, 04:27 AM
It will be even better if Rajshahi is cut in half. They will provide new players and more likely, Rangpur will follow the tradition. Our players pool will get fatter..

lamisa
September 28, 2010, 10:05 AM
hey,wasn't shafiul supposed to play for rajshahi?that's why i had been rooting for rajshai..

Tiger444
September 28, 2010, 10:13 AM
Rajshahi is definitely the most disciplined and advanced team out of all the divisions..credit has to be given to Mashud who has built a great academy for the Rajshahi cricketers..Zunaed, Jahurul, Shuvo and Naeem are already national team cricketers..Sanjamul, Subashis, and Farhad Hossain are not too far away from a shot in the national team..the one who we should look out for is Farhad..he's a good looking batsman who did very last year and looking forward to seeing him perform again this year..

roman
September 28, 2010, 10:20 AM
It will be even better if Rajshahi is cut in half. They will provide new players and more likely, Rangpur will follow the tradition. Our players pool will get fatter..

Thats a very good point. But too bad for rajshahi as they have to let go several key players like shuvo and few others...

view360
September 29, 2010, 05:06 AM
It seems like Rajshahi is going to have a formidable formation this year as well. However, I wished that Rangpur could also do the same. Nevertheless , I am pretty happy to see the general sense of seriousness among the North Bengal cricketers at the grass-root level. Good luck to them.

al-Sagar
September 29, 2010, 07:28 AM
i saw Pilot today at the Secretariat ... ...

roman
September 29, 2010, 10:46 AM
Go Rajshahi (Saying this for the last time, Next year theke ami bolbo go Rangpur :))

Habib
September 29, 2010, 11:01 AM
i saw Pilot today at the Secretariat ... ...

OMG is he trying to fix Rajshahi's win? :)
But let's face it- nothing will stop Khulna from being the champion inshallah.

al-Sagar
September 29, 2010, 07:33 PM
OMG is he trying to fix Rajshahi's win? :)
But let's face it- nothing will stop Khulna from being the champion inshallah.

may be he went for some ministry or secretary level meeting about the CLEMON ACADEMY of rajshahi

lamisa
September 30, 2010, 04:25 AM
are habib bhai,age khela shuru hoye nik na tarpor kotha boilen!

Habib
September 30, 2010, 05:05 AM
are habib bhai,age khela shuru hoye nik na tarpor kotha boilen!

Abar khelteo hobe? Thik achhe. Tar agey Khulna k trophy ta diye dite hobe. Somoy bachbe.