A day before the second ODI against South Africa, it was learned that there was one spot in the Bangladesh XI that was still undecided. An open discussion on selection so close to the game could have been demoralising for the players, but it may not have made much of a difference to a man already outside the XI.
Rubel Hossain has not played any of the three matches in this South Africa tour. But BCB president Nazmul Hassan said he could return for the second ODI. Such an endorsement must have come as a boost to Rubel. After all, Hassan's statements, comments and suggestions have often equalled the decisions of the BCB itself, be it policy matters or team selection.
At the game, Rubel came on after ten overs and immediately made an impact. His seventh delivery got through Hashim Amla's defenses. It wasn't too quick but it appeared to have taken the batsman by surprise. Rubel had nipped the ball back, with that old natural slingy action, and made Amla play across the line.
Rubel did not strive for pace today. He bowled well within himself and took 1 for 12 in his first spell of four overs. Meanwhile, South Africa were left at 58 for 2 after 17. When he was brought back, South Africa were in deeper trouble at 115 for 6 in 35 overs. Straight away, he removed Chris Morris with a delivery that slid in and struck the batsman on the knee roll. It was an easy decision and Rubel pumped his fist. He bowled till the end of the 44th over when his figures were slightly disturbed by a six and a four. He finished with 2 for 34 from nine overs, a strong comeback from a man who had become quiet since the World Cup.
He had taken eight wickets against India and Pakistan, but had given away 75 runs in the last ODI against India. He was not picked for the two T20s and first ODI against South Africa as the team management sacrificed a bowling spot to play eight batsmen.
In the World Cup too, Rubel had taken eight wickets including the match-winning 4 for 53 against England in Adelaide. He had looked an entirely different bowler then. His pace was up, but the lines he maintained were still good.
Rubel was always known for hitting lengths properly, but with injuries and tinkering on his bowling action, he lost his old slingy style of bowling. His hand comes down from a more orthodox position now, somewhere over this right ear.
There were moments in Sunday's match when he seemed like he could summon a burst of pace if he wanted, but he chose not to. Also, he looks far more comfortable when setting his fields. This change in attitude and willingness to use the freedom given to him has been attributed to Mashrafe Mortaza's leadership, which has been far more kind to pace bowlers than previous captains. Maybe it has a lot to do with Mashrafe himself being a pace bowler.
But Rubel must also realise that while he is a viable option in ODIs, he has failed to convert his potential in Tests. His bowling average remains quite poor and he was recently dropped from the Fatullah Test against India so that he could remain fresh for the subsequent ODI series.
Like many Bangladesh bowlers, Rubel still struggles to maintain composure for the entire five days of a Test. For now, he would be happy to have bowled economically. He would be happy with his two wickets, one of which was the opposition's best batsman. There are more ways to become a better bowler but for now, a middling haul that contributed to his team's second only win against South Africa will do.