Zimbabwe v Bangladesh, 1st ODI, Bulawayo May 2, 2013

From outsider to spearhead?

Robiul Islam has mostly been seen as a Test specialist in recent years, but might find himself leading the attack in the one-dayers

Robiul Islam's Man-of-the-Series performance in the Test series has made him the latest option available to the Bangladesh ODI side. In Zimbabwe, Bangladesh are on a quest to complete an unbeaten run in one-day series this season, having already defeated West Indies in December and drawn with Sri Lanka in March.

If they can complete another series win in Bulawayo in the next week, it would be a more impressive string of results than the four consecutive series wins back in 2009. They had defeated Zimbabwe in three of those, the other victory coming against a third-string West Indies side. One-day cricket is where the

Bangladesh team has shown marked consistency over the years. The players are more comfortable in the 50-over game, mainly due to playing the format heavily during their formative years.

Robiul too started off similarly but over the last 12 months he has predominantly become a longer-version bowler. His previous 10 matches have all been in either Test or first-class cricket. After failing to attract any of the BPL franchises, he missed out on the domestic Twenty20 tournament as well.

The last time he bowled in a limited-overs game was in the annual Victory Day match on December 16. In last season's Dhaka Premier League, he was low-key as he picked up just eight wickets in nine games for Cricket Coaching School (CCS).

Still, ODI cricket wouldn't necessarily be alien to him but it will take some adjustment and it has also prompted some in the team management to think twice before taking the call on him.

But interestingly, it was his absence from the BPL that helped him grow as a bowler this season. According to Bangladesh coach Shane Jurgensen, his earnestness in the training programme at the National Cricket Academy, held while the Twenty20 tournament was in full flow, paid big dividends.

"His hard work has paid off basically," Jurgensen told ESPNcricinfo. "He didn't get a team in the BPL so we put him in a programme at the National Cricket Academy. I wanted all the fast bowlers to do this, but he put his mind and body to it.

"He stayed out of his hometown. He worked out everything that we had asked him to do and this is the result."

But his overarching advantage is his first-class experience. He has 192 wickets, 40 more than the next best quick bowler in the current Bangladesh team, Sajidul Islam. He has the bowling volume that bowlers like Rubel Hossain and Abul Hasan are missing. In addition, Jurgensen found his attitude to his liking too.

"The first-class experience is where, I think, he draws his confidence. He has spent years in the domestic circuit, taking wickets. He brings that into his game here at the international level.

"He has a fast bowler's attitude. He runs in and bowls fast, doesn't stop at all. He has an excellent outswinger, sets his own fields. He has been a pleasure to work with and seeing him, I know that the coaching staff has done the right thing with him."

Bangladesh are once again without Mashrafe Mortaza, their most successful ODI bowler with 161 scalps. Rubel Hossain is out with chicken pox, which means Shafiul Islam and Ziaur Rahman are the only other pace bowlers in the squad.

If Robiul is picked, he will probably have to lead the attack though Shafiul is considered a better one-day bowler. Ziaur's confidence with the ball would also have sky-rocketed after the four-wicket haul in the second innings of the second Test.

Even without two frontline bowlers, Bangladesh have enough to call it a good pace attack. It can only be weakened by the customary urge to play the extra batsman down the order. Unless this mindset is changed, even an in-form bowler like Robiul would have a question-mark hanging over his head.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. He tweets here