Kamrul Islam Rabbi showed ample courage and a glimpse of brilliance over the first two days of the Christchurch Test. He had significant impact on the game by taking two wickets in his first over; the same Rabbi who, in October, had bowled 19 insipid overs in two home Tests against England in October.
If Rabbi had got lost in the system ahead of this New Zealand tour, few would have felt his absence. There are several fast bowlers like him in Bangladesh, those who bowl only a few overs in a game and are taken good care of by the BCB. They show promise at under-19 level but it evaporates quickly in domestic cricket. Only the bowlers who last several years or show a singular skill make it to the top.
Rabbi, however, survived, partly due to the selection committee's commitment towards consistent decision-making, and partly because he hadn't been given a fair chance in October. So three months later in New Zealand, Rabbi is making his second chance count.
When Rabbi was brought on second change in the 15th over in Christchurch, New Zealand were 44 for 1, with opener Jeet Raval having been dropped twice. He immediately lifted Bangladesh's spirits by dismissing Raval with his second delivery and then the New Zealand captain and best batsman Kane Williamson two balls later. Raval played a rising delivery on to his stumps before Williamson was caught behind off a perfectly-pitched ball that moved away to take his outside edge.
In Wellington - his first Test away from home - Rabbi had dismissed Raval, Ross Taylor and Neil Wagner, whom he had hit three times with short balls before removing him with another bouncer.
Rabbi was also on the receiving end in Christchurch, where he showed guts to play out 63 balls for two runs at No. 10 in Bangladesh's first innings. It wasn't pretty, but Rabbi's 92-minute stay was worth a watch and it helped the visitors post 289.
He survived an lbw appeal and the subsequent review off the first ball he faced, and then successfully reviewed when he was given caught at short leg off his eighth delivery. Rabbi scored his first run off the next ball and then played out 20 before scoring another.
The most significant aspect of his innings, however, was the seven full overs he survived, including two against the new ball. Rabbi stopped almost everything New Zealand sent down at him, before falling to the 31st ball he faced from Tim Southee.
Though Rabbi batting higher than Rubel Hossain was a surprise, he continued the long line of Bangladesh No. 10s who have played brave innings. Abul Hasan leads that list, having become the first batsman in 110 years to score a century on debut at that position. Enamul Haque, Tapash Baisya, Robiul Islam and Shafiul Islam have also played similar rearguards.
Rabbi's effort in Christchurch won him praise from the dressing-room. "I was telling him after he returned to the dressing room that a batsman would have scored a century had Rabbi been at the other end," Soumya Sarkar, who made 86, said. "He batted out 60-70 deliveries, which is great support to the team."
While these are admirable qualities, Rabbi has to remain fit and improve as a bowler, which is his primary suit. He will have to find a way forward and not join the slipstream of discarded Bangladesh pace bowlers.