Nasser Hussain says he would not pick Adil Rashid for England's Tests against India, despite the leg-spinner suggesting he would consider playing in the series.
There is one question currently dominating England’s preparations ahead of the first Test against India at Edgbaston on August 1; should in-form legspinner Adil Rashid be recalled to the team?
There’s a reason. That ball to Virat Kohli.
Evoking memories of Shane Warne’s ‘ball of the century’ to dismiss Mike Gatting at Old Trafford way back in the 1993 Ashes, while Rashid’s in the third ODI at Headingley mirrored that delivery – the drift and turn not quite as exaggerated as Warne’s – it was similar more in the staggered reaction it provoked. Kohli’s flummoxed face will live long in the memory, if not as an internet meme sensation.
0:25 India captain Virat Kohli was left completely dumbfounded by Adil Rashid after the spinner deceived him with a sensational delivery in the third ODI.
Warne’s Gatting ball announced him on the world stage, while Rashid’s was more a reprise, a reminder of his prodigious talent. Talent as yet unfulfilled in the Test arena.
Rashid is the world’s leading wicket-taker in ODIs since the 2015 World Cup, striking 110 times in 68 games at an average of 29.90, continuing that fine form over this summer’s series wins over Australia and India – 18 wickets at 22.61. But he has been limited to only 10 Tests for England, all away from home.
His average in the longest format is a very modest 42.78, but the spinner’s supporters will point to a strong tour of India in 2016/17 where he finished as England’s leading wicket-taker by a considerable distance, his 23 scalps some 13 clear of next best Moeen Ali.
Rashid was marginalised for Moeen, and his greater control offered in home conditions, for the summer series’ against South Africa – he’d be named player of the series for his staggering 25 wickets at 15.64, including a hat-trick in the win at The Oval – and the West Indies, while Rashid was then unfairly jettisoned from the winter Ashes touring squad for younger model Mason Crane.
It prompted a Rashid rethink and a retirement from red-ball cricket announced in February this year, but Moeen and Crane’s combined six wickets at an average of 128 in the 5-0 whitewash defeat down under, Rashid’s fine white-ball form, India’s inclusion in their Test squad of their own maverick wrist spinner, Kuldeep Yadav, and that ball to Kohli have many clamouring for a Test recall.
4:24 The pick of the action from the third and final ODI between England and India at Headingley.
It’s one Rashid would “consider”. In his latest, exclusive Sky Sports column, Rashid said: “I made the decision earlier this year to focus on playing white-ball cricket to see how it felt but always knew that if I found I was missing red-ball cricket then I would go back to it.
“So, if the selectors come and show faith in me and want me to be part of the squad for the Test series then I would consider it, whatever role they want me to do.”
While Rashid is open to a red-ball return for England, it appears his relationship with Yorkshire is strained as, according to the Daily Mail’s Paul Newman, when the county asked him to reconsider his position ahead of Sunday’s Roses match in the County Championship, Rashid refused.
A new contract is supposedly on the table, though the talk is he wants to join his mate Moeen at Worcestershire, and on a white-ball only deal.
However, Rashid’s lack of red-ball cricket won’t necessarily repel England’s new national selector Ed Smith, who made it his first call of business to reinstate Jos Buttler to the Test arena early this summer despite limited action in the longer format over the last 18 months. But not all are convinced.
“Make your mind up, Adil,” Nasser Hussain told Sky Sports Cricket. “One minute he’s playing, one minute he’s not. That’s not how it works; you can’t just say I’m now available. You play and then let the selectors select.
“It’s different for Buttler. He did not make himself unavailable for selection – he was playing in the IPL but was going to come back and play red-ball cricket.
“If I was an England selector I would not go down that road. Dominic Bess, Jack Leach, Moeen have been trying as hard as they can to become England Test cricketers – I wouldn’t pick over them someone who can’t make their mind up.
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“Also, you’ve got to look at the bigger picture; if he has one bad game, then what happens? Does he make himself unavailable again?”
Somerset spinners Bess and Leach are the more likely inclusions for Edgbaston, with both showing potential in their Test bows this year – Leach taking two wickets on a testing surface against New Zealand in Christchurch and Bess, in relief of his injured county counterpart, firing fifty on debut at Lord’s, following that up with three wickets in the win over Pakistan at Headingley – while Moeen is again in contention after improved white-ball outings.
And, Hussain’s point is a valid one; would a poor showing on a Test return have Rashid (and England) immediately questioning the wisdom of their decision and, more importantly, would it dent the confidence of a bowler so crucial to their hopes of winning a first World Cup on home?
Upon taking over as England’s new head of cricket following the 2011 World Cup debacle, Andrew Strauss made it clear that white-ball cricket would no longer be neglected under his watch and what has followed is their most successful period in coloured kit – a current stretch of eight bilateral ODI series wins in a row and the world No 1 ranking.
This makes a Rashid Test recall unlikely but for one thing, Kohli.
Kohli – who averages a lowly 13.40 in Tests in England – and his success, or lack of it, is the key to the series. Rashid’s own ball of the century moment at the very least means there is a decision to be made.