“While it remains to be seen if Rashid commits himself back to red-ball cricket, his “surprise” at being selected indicates that while he did have a discussion with Smith, he himself wasn’t expecting to be picked without playing First-class cricket for a few months”
The ball landed in line with the leg stump, ripped past Virat Kohli’s push and knocked down the off-stump.
As Adil Rashid spun one past the Indian skipper’s defence, the leggie would have undoubtedly exulted at the joy of beating a fabulous spin player with turn. What he possibly didn’t realise was the kind of social media attention his supposed ‘ball of the century’ would get.
Retweeted a zillion times on Twitter, the delivery earned unprecedented adulation with Kohli’s wide-eyed stare becoming the butt of several jokes. There is nothing to take away from Rashid’s exceptional delivery. He had indeed managed to bamboozle one of the finest modern players of spin bowling.
However, little did he, his teammates and fans realise that the England selectors were on the hunt for anyone capable of deceiving the Indian skipper. It might be unfair to suggest that one ball had resulted in Adil Rashid’s recall to the Test squad.
Is this the ball of this century? #ViratKohli bowled by a sensational delivery from #AdilRashid at #Headingley#INDvENG#Kohli#ENGvIND pic.twitter.com/z1BCoyGnwA
— Manoj Gupta (@PassionForNews) July 18, 2018
But how else do you explain the selection of someone in the Test side when he had given up red ball cricket earlier this year?
When Rashid created a huge cacophony with his controversial announcement earlier this year, he had several reasons to do so. The leg-spinner had been massively successful in white ball cricket and had shown the potential to become England’s strike bowler in the shorter formats and with the World Cup looming, his focus was on taking wickets, and as much of them as possible, with the white ball.
Having played a mere 10 Tests, Rashid seemed no longer keen to play red ball cricket and promptly conveyed his decision to his club, Yorkshire. He was pretty vocal at the time about his decision and conveyed that he didn’t want to merely “go through the motions” by committing to red ball cricket.
“If I do just go through the motions, firstly I’d be letting the team down and I’d also be letting myself down because I wouldn’t be giving 100 per cent. I’ve made the decision, this summer, to just concentrate on white ball, something which makes me very happy and gives me the best chance of improving my cricket,” Rashid had said then as revealed by Telegraph Sport.
Jack Leach, Moeen Ali and Dom Bess had all filled in for Rashid in Test cricket during the Ashes and the subsequent tour of New Zealand and the home series against Pakistan. While Ali still remains integral to England’s plans, Rashid was officially ‘retired’ at the time the selectors sat down to pick the squad for the Indian Tests.
Adil Rashid's selection is a Hail Mary! There is no way a spinner who plays only short format can immediately acquire the mental strength required of a Test spinner. Desperation stakes from England. Kohli bluffed them with his dismissal reaction when Rashid got him!
— Mike Haysman (@MikeHaysman) July 27, 2018
The 2017/18 County Championship had three English spinners in the top 15 wicket-takers list – Leach, Bess and Liam Dawson. Leach will train with the squad ahead of the Edgbaston Test but isn’t a part of the 13-man squad chosen by Ed Smith and co. The experienced left-arm spinner had played 14 matches in the 2017/18 season, 7 more than Rashid has played in the last two years, picking up 51 wickets at 25.78. Bess, eleventh in the list, has 36 in 9 matches and Dawson has 31 in 10 matches.
None of them are overtly impressive figures by any stretch of one’s imagination. But the point is about why such a Championship is in place. No cricketer wishes to play his entire life for a county and retire after he had done his part. There is an ulterior motive to become a part of the national setup at one point or the other.
After they did it once in 2017, Virat Kohli & Co. have been presented the opportunity to finish Adil Rashid's red ball career for the second time.
— Abhishek (@Sajjanlaunda) July 26, 2018
With such a system in place, it made little sense for the selectors to request Rashid to be available for the Test series when he had clearly given up on First-class cricket. By selector Smith’s own words, this was a “one-off circumstance” but clearly he has sent out wrong signals with his selection of Buttler in the previous series and Rashid now.
The Buttler ploy turned out to be successful, even if only for a start, and Rashid’s might too. But all it does is question the existence of a County Championship where players vie for apparently nothing.
“Before the selection meeting, Adil had confirmed his availability to play Test cricket for England for whole of this summer and the upcoming winter tours to Sri Lanka and West Indies,” selector, Ed Smith had said as revealed by ESPNCricinfo. “Adil [Rashid] fully understands that if he wishes to be eligible for Test cricket in the 2019 season, he must have a county contract to play four-day cricket. Moving forward, England Test players must be committed to the county championship.”
While it remains to be seen if Rashid commits himself back to red-ball cricket, his “surprise” at being selected indicates that while he did have a discussion with Smith, he himself wasn’t expecting to be picked without playing First-class cricket for a few months.
Clearly, Smith and co have set an unwanted precedent, one that puts their County in danger. But even more clear is the emphasis that selectors these days place on white ball form in selecting the Test team. Unfortunately, they are entirely different ball games as several instances have proved in the recent past. Rashid could set a template by adapting back to red-ball cricket and staying true to Smith’s words by playing more of long-form cricket for his County. But if the move doesn’t click, England might just lose their most reliable (only reliable?) white ball bowler before a major ICC event which they are favourites to win at this stage.