As a cricketer Robiul Islam belongs to a different breed when compared to his teammates. His fan following is negligible when compared to the Shakibs, the Mushfiqurs and the Tamims; you would barely find him moaning about the fact that he is not a regular in Bangladesh's T20 and one-day squads; and neither does he find any space on air in the numerous television channels of the country; and yet the 27-year-old pacer from Satkhira holds the key for the Tigers in their upcoming Test series at the West Indies.
While he debuted in 2010, he stormed into limelight in 2013 after taking 19 wickets in three Tests. It was the two-Test Zimbabwe series where he brought out his best. Like a machine he bowled a 110 overs in that series and picked 15 wickets. The burden eventually got the better of him and he suffered a quad injury in the Dhaka Premier League that year, which led him to a dip in form, as he went wicket-less in the next two Tests.
It will be a dual battle for the pacer in the Caribbean this year. The first will be to prove to the selectors that he has in fact completely recovered and the second will be to lead a depleted Bangladeshi bowling attack. Shakib Al Hasan and Shohag Gazi have been Bangladesh's highest wicket-takers in Test cricket in the last two years. However, with Shakib suspended and Shohag suffering from a lean patch, the onus is on Robiul.
And how does he respond to that pressure? Only in the calmest manner possible: "Firstly, the Test team has not even been declared, so I don't even know if I am in the team," he grins. "But yeah, I really don't think about all that. I think except for my debut game in 2011, I never took pressure. All I have to do is I just go there and give it my best," adds Robiul.
Despite going wicket-less in the last two Tests, Robiul was high on confidence. "In the game against New Zealand [in October 2013] it was a flat wicket. Mushfiqur [Rahim] and Shane [Jurgensen] asked me to contain the runs and that's what I did. Although I did not get any wicket I think I gave around 35 runs in 19 overs or something," recalls Robiul. He had in fact given 32 runs in 17 overs in that Test after which his injury got the better of him.
So does he hope that the conditions in the West Indies will be similar to that of Zimbabwe, where he achieved his career-best figures a year ago? Not exactly. "I don't know about others but I don't think the conditions in Zimbabwe were really helpful for pacers. Even Gazi had gotten wickets back then. I had to bend my back then. If I can do the same in the West Indies I am sure the result will be good," says Robiul.
Robiul was ignored by all the franchises of the Bangladesh Premier League in the last season. The pacer underwent 'spot-bowling' training, where he had to bowl in the nets at specific spots -- without any wickets in place for a month. According to Robiul his performance in Sri Lanka and in Zimbabwe was a result of all that hard work.
He has worked on a similar strategy this time; only that he has had to be more active under the new coach, Chandika Hathurusingha. "I think his [Hathurusingha's] main feature is that he wants all of us to be on our toes all the time. He wants us to be active and give our hundred per cent all the time," says Robiul.
One of Robiul's aim this year is to take the wicket of Shivnarine Chanderpaul, who he considers to be West Indies' most vital player and he is confident that he can. As he puts it, "I have worked hard the last few months. I have a good feeling about this series, let's see what happens," says a pragmatic Robiul.