England have made the right call by recalling Adil Rashid. The interests of the national team are the most important thing – and Rashid can help defeat India.
The T20 and One Day International series, predictably, produced some thrilling cricket with both bat and ball. It provided the perfect prelude to the main event and what should now be an epic five-match Test series. India took T20 glory and England bounced back to continue their fine 50-over winning streak.
However, captains Joe Root and Virat Kohli know the next month and a half – from Edgbaston on 1st August to The Oval on 7th September – is where the success of their side’s summer will be judged. For Root, he needs Rashid to give him the best possible chance of a long overdue Test series victory.
Root and his country are still hurting from the misery of the winter tours and defeats in Australia and New Zealand. A draw at home to Pakistan only frustrated further. They are under pressure to come out on top in the coming weeks. That is a mightily difficult task against a side with such talents as Kohli himself – the world’s best – plus Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Ajinkya Rahane.
Therefore they need their best XI. And, right now, Rashid should be in that side as his country’s leading spinner.
The leg-spinner’s call up by national selector Ed Smith into England’s 13-man squad this week has caused controversy, owing to Rashid’s own decision in February to give up red-ball cricket for his county Yorkshire to concentrate on the limited overs formats. At the time, it was perceived much of this was down to his frustration at a lack of regular Test opportunities for England.
Rashid has since further staked his claim as one of the stars of Eoin Morgan’s ODI side as England build towards a home World Cup next year, for which they will start as favourites. Rashid was outstanding against India and produced what has been described as the new ‘ball of the century’ to become the first leg-spinner ever to clean bowl Kohli (it took 200 ODI and 112 Test innings).
That form led to whispers he should be recalled to the Test line-up. His fellow Yorkshireman Jonny Bairstow admitted the Kohli ball was far from a surprise to him, having seen Rashid produce it regularly in training. He, too, advocated Rashid’s Test return.
Critics say that it sets a dangerous precedent, given Rashid appeared to give up on the longer format of the game. And, certainly, those busting a gut in the County Championship for an England chance will feel hard done by. However, Smith, Root and the fellow selectors have to do all they can to give themselves a chance of victory – and Rashid could prove crucial to that.
Any chink in Kohli’s armour must be exploited. The look on his face as his wickets were dismantled was priceless. Surely, mentally, he will be playing to avoid such a fate should he come up against Rashid at Edgbaston?
The heatwave being experienced across the country will produce drier pitches than usual. They will be far more suited to the Indian players than they would normally expect on an England tour. Given England will need to take 20 wickets to win a match, against a top-heavy batting line-up, they will require their spinners to be in the game. Rashid is the best spinner in the country. England must pick the best players.
There is an argument that Rashid should have made himself available for the four-day Roses match between Lancashire and Yorkshire last week to prove his intent to return properly. However, his contract may have prevented that – and regardless, why give India more of a chance to look at working him out?
England will need to take risks to regularly take 20 wickets over five matches against a side so used to playing spin and so adept at building totals. Rashid’s ability to spin it both ways and the mystery he carries will bring far more than young Dom Bess or an undercooked Jack Leach – the two previous first picks – can at this stage of their careers.
Rashid will be fired up, too. And there is the argument he was previously under-used at Test level – this would be his home debut in the format, remarkably for a 30-year-old long-considered to be of some promise – as well as being jettisoned somewhat prematurely. He will come back with a point to prove.
Rashid’s recall is for the good of his country. He stepped out of the Test firing line to do just that in respect of being at his best for the World Cup. But now he is willing to grasp the chance to return Root’s men to winning ways. Certainly, the thousands who will sell out venues across the country in the coming weeks are desperate for that. And with the prices they pay, they deserve it too.