Eng v Ind Adil Rashid

Published on August 1st, 2018 | by Arunabha Sengupta

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Adil Rashid’s inclusion: Is the England team management obsessed with the Kohli-factor?

🕓 Reading time: 4 minutes

Including Rashid in the side may not have been the smartest move just because of the inferences that can be readily made. Have they already accepted defeat in one of the major psychological battles of the series?

The last time Adil Rashid bowled in a Test match was in India in December 2016. In the last Test at Chennai, he sent down two balls short of 30 overs, and captured one solitary wicket in exchange of 153 runs. That brought his overall Test bowling average to 42.78.

He played 7 First-Class matches after that, all for Yorkshire, conceding exactly 500 runs in exchange of 10 wickets. The numbers were a delight for the statistician who had forgotten to pack his calculator, but the average of 50 is hardly anything to write home about.

The final First-Class match he played was against Middlesex, 11 months ago, and he bowled 5 overs to capture 1 for 38. His inclination for the shorter format was perhaps palpably evident. Even his bowling figures in First-Class matches had started to resemble numbers more suited for the shorter format.

His overall First-Class record shows an average of 35.07.

Besides, Rashid had made no secret of his reluctance for red-ball cricket.

Now that he has been brought back in the Test side, in spite of absolutely no First-Class exposure in the last 11 months, very mediocre numbers, and his continued absence from the Yorkshire county team, it has generated plenty of scathing criticism from former cricketers like Geoff Boycott and Michael Vaughan.

Of course, the way Boycott came at him all guns blazing left a lot to be desired from the point of view of both etiquette and rationality. However, the bluster of Boycott aside, there are aspects of the decision that seems curious.

Well, he did play the ODIs and the T20Is against India, and did reasonably well. In the ODIs of 2017, he had proved rather a handful in the ICC Champions Trophy and then against the West Indies. He had followed that with a lukewarm tour of Australia and New Zealand. Back home, in the summer of 2018, he had a good time against Australia, albeit his 12 wickets came at the cost of a rather expensive economy rate.

When he played against India this summer, he was taken for runs at Nottingham but enjoyed a very good outing at Lord’s capturing three wickets and did the star turn at Leeds as well.

However, was it enough to earn him a Test place … not just in the squad, but in the final eleven at the expense of Moeen Ali?

True, Indians are also toying with the idea of playing Kuldeep Yadav in the Tests because of the way the English batsmen were tied into complicated knots by this left-arm wrist spinner. But in 2 T20Is and 3 ODIs, Kuldeep captured 2 five-fors and ended with 14 wickets. Rashid was nothing close to that successful. His 3 T20Is and 3 ODIs amounted to 8 wickets and a best of 3 for 49.

Another factor to note is that Kuldeep does play First-Class cricket, has been eager to prove himself in the longest format and has done well in the two Tests he has played in till now.

So, while Kuldeep’s inclusion in the team is not certain at the time of writing, at least one can justify it … especially given the way the English batsmen were made to grope and fish around by his variations in the shorter format.

Rashid, honestly, has done little to offset the enormous negative that comes with a long, voluntary absence from the First-Class format. His numbers in the longer formats are hardly decent, and neither have the Indian batsmen had the kind of visible discomfort against him that the Englishmen demonstrated against Kuldeep.

One also has to take into account that Moeen Ali has had at least one match-winning bowling performance against India. The men from the supposedly spin-rich land have often struggled, historically, against finger spinners. Men like Shaun Udal and John Bracewell have won Tests against them, let alone superior bowlers like Saqlain Mushtaq and Muttiah Muralitharan. In contrast, in the last fifty years, very few wrist spinners have had success, including giants like Shane Warne and Abdul Qadir.

Edgbaston is a seamer’s paradise. The only wrist spinner to enjoy prolonged success here has been Warne. Rashid is not Warne.

Besides, Moeen’s track record as a batsman has also been sacrificed in favour of the ploy.

In retrospect, it seems quite obvious that the selection of the leg-spinning Yorkshireman was triggered by two entries in the scoreboard.

Nottingham: Virat Kohli st Jos Buttler b Adil Rashid 75

Leeds: Virat Kohli b Adil Rashid 71

It was also the manner in which Kohli got out, beaten all ends up by the turn, a confused gaze sticking to memory as he fell at Headingley. It was perhaps the way Kohli stared in disbelief after that Leeds dismissal that hastened Rashid into the Test team.

If the best batsman of the opposition, a phenomenal superstar and one of top willows of the world, succumbs in clueless fashion twice, while batting in his 70s on both occasions, the team management may be led to thinking that some magic formula has been unearthed.

It is not very difficult to deduce that the reason for plucking Rashid from beyond the First-Class world and pitchforking him into the Test side stemmed from the two Virat Kohli’s dismissals.

And this places the team management on a rather risky precipice.

It may work. Rashid may dismiss Kohli again in this Test.

But there is another angle of looking at it. It is akin to showing the opponent one’s hand. And the cards that one glimpses as the palm are turned outward tells us that England are obsessed with Kohli.

Do they really want to give that impression? Do they really want to admit that the Kohli-factor is playing on their minds, and desperate experiments are being carried out to curb the India maestro?

Including Rashid in the side may not have been the smartest move just because of the inferences that can be readily made. Have they already accepted defeat in one of the major psychological battles of the series?

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About the Author

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Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and the author of Sherlock Holmes and the Birth of The Ashes. He tweets @senantix.



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