<
>

'I gain positivity from remembering some of my best performances'

play
Rubel sends England packing (2:25)

Rubel Hossain took four wickets to help his side advance to the 2015 World Cup quarter-finals (2:25)

Rubel Hossain was all the rage four years ago. His head-spinning move from Dhaka's central jail to the cauldron of a World Cup match occurred in a matter of weeks, and he became the hero of Bangladesh's historic win over England, which took them to their maiden World Cup quarter-final.

While the entire country danced to the tune of Rubel's last two wickets against England that day in Adelaide, and his real-life turnaround caught the imagination of an already excitable cricket nation, the performance didn't quite transform his life.

His 4 for 53 lives on in highlights montages, but despite having over ten years' experience in international cricket, Rubel will play a much smaller role for Bangladesh in this World Cup. In all likelihood, 22-year-old fast-bowling allrounder Mohammad Saifuddin will be preferred over Rubel in their opening game, against South Africa. Saifuddin is a more accomplished batsman and has also carved out a spot as a death bowler.

ALSO READ: Bangladesh's selection issues: Rubel or Saifuddin, or both?

Bangladesh captain Mashrafe Mortaza considers Rubel a dependable bowler, mainly due to his ability with the old ball mid-innings and for being reliable in the death overs, but it's a fact that he hasn't lived up to his potential in international cricket. His Test bowling average is the worst among those who have bowled at least 3000 deliveries. And in ODIs, since the end of the 2015 World Cup, he has taken 46 wickets at an average of 33.23 from 36 innings.

Rubel has never appeared as confident as many of his other more celebrated and successful team-mates even though he has starred in some of Bangladesh's iconic wins - against Sri Lanka on debut in 2009, New Zealand in 2010 and 2013 (where he took a career-best six-for), and of course, the 2015 World Cup win in Adelaide.

After his 6 for 26 against New Zealand, which contained a hat-trick, his captain at the time, Mushfiqur Rahim, said that it was the first time Rubel had used his head. What Mushfiqur meant was that Rubel had finally shouldered the responsibility of being a leader of the attack after four years of international cricket. Bangladesh fans will be quick to point to the lows too - when Muttiah Muralitharan smashed him in a tri-series final ten years ago; and the Nidahas T20 Trophy final, when Rubel, having bowled so well earlier in the game, and through the tournament, ran into a rampant Dinesh Karthik.

"I consider myself a positive person, so I don't let bad thoughts take control," Rubel says. "After I have bowled a couple of deliveries to my liking - where the ball has pitched where I intended it to, and it goes through quickly - then I try to build a rhythm.

"The Adelaide spell was a great moment in my career. In English conditions, I will keep that performance in mind. We usually go through footage before every tournament, but I will definitely review my good performances. My preparation will reflect the positivity I gain from remembering some of my best performances."

While great spells from him have been sporadic, Rubel's main role, of bowling in the death overs, has been a constant in the Bangladesh bowling set-up. He is among the top three-wicket takers in the last five overs for Bangladesh. Rubel and Mustafizur Rahman have formed a partnership since 2018 and have done well at home against Sri Lanka as well as in the West Indies, where Bangladesh won the ODI series in July last year.

"Bowling in the slog overs is getting harder," Rubel says. "Batsmen are targeting boundaries every ball. It is important to keep my cool, read the batsman and bowl. Right execution brings success, and I am working on it in training.

ALSO READ: Mohammad Isam picks Bangladesh's all-time World Cup XI

"We know that conditions in England now allow teams to reach 400 runs at times. It is important to keep cool while bowling. One or two boundaries can rattle bowlers but it is necessary to think clearly and finish the over properly. It is a batsmen's game, so the bowlers have a battle in their hands."

Rubel won't be a front-line option for Bangladesh in the World Cup. Over the last four years he just hasn't bowled as well as the team's second-most experienced pace bowler ought to have done. He will need to tap into his big-match temperament and remember that one great spell isn't going to give him a regular place in the Bangladesh team.