The 25th edition of the National Cricket League (NCL) is set to commence across the country on Thursday, but the scheduling and organisation of one of the most important longer-format domestic competitions is still a problem area for regional organisers.

The start of the tournament had already been delayed two days to accommodate players returning from the Hangzhou Asian Games.

Moreover, the High Performance (HP) squad's tour of Sri Lanka on October 14 would see many key players miss NCL's 2023 season. This leads to a vacancy already pronounced by absence of players playing the ongoing ODI World Cup in India.

Akbar Ali had captained Rangpur Division to the title in the last NCL but will now hope to participate in the last few matches. Stars such as Mominul Haque will be available while Tamim Iqbal has not been included in his Chattogram side.

Scheduling of domestic tournaments often suffers due to national teams or other national assignments, which had led to critics labelling the competition as a 'picnic tournament'. Chattogram Division, which slumped to Tier 2 of the NCL last season, will be missing five to six players due to the HP's Sri Lanka assignment.

Sirajuddin Mohammad Alamgir, general secretary of Chittagong Divisional Sports Association and organiser from Chattogram Division, told The Daily Star, "It's a setback since there are various programmes like HP, Asian Games etc during the NCL.

"It's difficult to play with full strength. More importance needs to be placed on the NCL so that scheduling, bar the national team's assignment, such as HP or A team's schedule, do not clash with the tournament. It shouldn't be necessary to hold the tournament at one go."

"If we can't brand our first-class cricket, it's difficult to create opportunities to develop players for the longer version. It is a common problem for every division that we build a team with a certain mindset and after one or two games, the team is half empty. This continues on an ad-hoc basis. We are losing five-six players this time," Sirajuddin further said, adding that the event is set to roll on in a light-hearted spirit.

The national team selectors, along with the board, balance the make-up of the squad. But Sirajuddin believes that local talents often do not come into the radar.

"We had given a chance to the likes of Tamim once but, since divisions do not still have the responsibility, the cricket board too is deprived of judging local stars here. Some opportunity has to be created for the regional bodies for their own selection panel so they build better teams."

The tournament committee had ushered in measures to improve the tournament last season. Chances are likely the tournament would move from two-tier system to round-robin league format to introduce more competitiveness with players' draft such as BCL.

Selector Habibul Bashar informed, "Yes, it may change next season. Plans have been made, but this time there was a time shortage to implement it."

In a country where longer-version cricket is still lagging behind white-ball formats, more discussions between regional bodies with more accountability could help get NCL to the next level.


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