The Rubel conundrum | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 14, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:06 AM, February 14, 2019

The Rubel conundrum

It is important that some selection attitudes be sorted out as Bangladesh head towards the World Cup which, given Bangladesh's recently attained consistency in ODIs, is perhaps the most important tournament in the team's history. Yesterday's defeat to New Zealand was nothing alarming, especially because the team are coming off a different format -- the T20 Bangladesh Premier League -- and also as most of the players have been in New Zealand for less than a week. The one contentious call in the side that played the first ODI was the absence of Rubel Hossain.

It was a tough call because Bangladesh are without Shakib Al Hasan due to injury. Having the world's best all-rounder in the side effectively means that the Tigers take the field with 12 players, and it is understandably a selectors' nightmare when he is absent.

The silver lining is that it is good practice in case of unforeseen injuries in the World Cup. But for it to be fruitful, the selection committee of Minhajul Abedin and Habibul Bashar have to ask themselves which is the better outlook -- focusing on team combination or selecting the 11 best players available. Bangladesh went in with four specialist bowlers, and Rubel was presumably sacrificed to include all-rounder Mohammad Saifuddin, because he ticks a box in Shakib's absence. The youngster is one of the most promising players in Bangladesh and performed notably with the bat in Bangladesh's eight-wicket loss yesterday, but it has to be asked whether he is one of the four best bowlers in the country.

Rubel can certainly lay claim to that. Since the beginning of 2017, Rubel's 33 wickets from 26 matches is third on Bangladesh's wicket-takers' list behind Mustafizur Rahman and Mashrafe Bin Mortaza and ahead of Shakib, who has taken six fewer wickets from 29 games. Even more than the numbers, his role in the team and the impact he has -- as shown by two four-wicket hauls over the aforementioned period -- as a death-overs bowler is not without substantial value. It very likely would not have been enough to deliver a win yesterday as the defeat was down to batting failures, but it certainly would not have harmed their chances.

There are seven ODIs left before Bangladesh play their World Cup opener against South Africa on June 2, and if Rubel is indeed in their plans, then him playing each of those matches is imperative. Dropping Saifuddin after Shakib returns and only then bringing back Rubel would just waste valuable opportunities for a valuable member.

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