By Peter Hayter
Sometimes one moment of magic is all it takes to change the course of a career and Adil Rashid found out last night that his dismissal of the best batsman in world cricket might just have done the trick.
In announcing Rashid’s controversial recall to Test cricket for the first Test against India at Edgbaston, for the first time since the end of the five-match series against them India in December 2016, national selector Ed Smith insisted the Yorkshire leg-spinner was on England’s radar before the start of the recent ODI series.
And he reckoned there was far more than that single, sensational delivery with which he bowled Virat Kohli behind his recall.
But nothing he said to explain the context and the thinking behind picking a player for Test cricket who, to the consternation and apparently continuing irritation of his county, had effectively turned his back on anything but white-ball cricket at the start of this season altered the perception that its impact turned Rashid from someone who they would quite like to be available to someone they simply had to pick.
And not just for the rest of this summer, but also for the winter tours to Sri Lanka and West Indies and this time next year, too.
For obvious reasons, and with the following caustic response from Yorkshire chief executive Mark Arthur ringing in his ears: “I hope England know what they are doing to Adil, and the county game,” Smith took his time, and great care, to tell all about the move to select Rashid alongside Moeen Ali in a 13-man squad for Edgbaston.
“We are fully aware of the summer we are having and the likelihood that the pitches will turn. So how do we get into the side two spinners who turn the ball in different opposite directions.
“Adil’s form in white-ball cricket, his confidence, his touch, that fact that he’s evolved so much as a bowler, is in the form of his life and has never felt more comfortable with life in an England jersey is one factor.
“Set against other choices like Jack Leach, who has bowled just 37 overs since coming back from injury, Adil’s form was looking at us in the face so then of course the question comes ‘is he available?’
“I actually spoke to him before the ODI series, sat down with him before the first game at Trent Bridge and had a general chat about where he was at, whether it was in his heart to play Test cricket for England again, what his aspirations were, what type of cricketer he wanted to be; a very wide ranging conversation.
“At no stage did I, at any point, give him assurances about selection even if he was available, but it became clear that he was very open about the idea of returning to the longer format, something he’d never drawn a line under at all.
“And in subsequent conversations with Joe Root and Trevor Bayliss, the captain and coach, I asked them, ‘do you want access to that capability if he is available and wants to play?’ The clear answer was, ‘yes’.
“Having spoken to Joe and Trevor I asked Adil again about his availability. I asked him, ‘what is you level of excitement, interest, passion in playing Test cricket?’ And he said he was available all summer and all winter, which was good to hear.”
Less good for the future was that it also became clear he would not be seeking (nor, in all probability would he be offered) the chance to extend his white-ball only contract with Yorkshire to include Championship cricket.
Acknowledging the implications of that, Smith did his best to head off all those who will doubtless see the selection of Rashid as another kick in the teeth for the county game.
“I’m aware it will prompt discussion but moving forward it’s been made clear to Adil that if he wishes to be eligible for selection in the 2019 summer he must have a contract to play red-ball cricket.
“I believe strongly in the county game’s value.
“In no way is there any sense that I would do anything to damage county cricket. However. in these circumstances where the context pre-dated my involvement as England selector, the panel unanimously felt that the right selection was Adil Rashid in the squad.”
And that included his county team-mate Root.
“I would never want to say to a captain, ‘have him’. Suppose he turns round and says, ‘I don’t want to bowl him’. The number one question was, ‘Joe what do you need’.
“I know Joe wishes to give Adil and Moeen the best environment to thrive in the Test team as they thrive in the one-day side.
“When it came to the final decision I asked all four if it was the right thing to do and the answer was ‘yes’ from all four.”
Smith also had words of sympathy for Leach, who, had he stayed clear of injury, might by now have closed the door on both Rashid and Moeen.
“Jack’s had an incredible run of bad luck but we felt it would not be fair on England, or him, to put him into a Test side against India.”
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