Rashid made a scapegoat as England deliver another slap in the face to county cricket

Aditya Devavrat 09:50 28/07/2018
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Rashid is being made a scapegoat by England's decision to select him.

England‘s selection of Adil Rashid for the upcoming Test series against India is illogical, reactionary, and a slap in the face for county cricket.

And none of that is Rashid’s fault.

Sure, he took a white-ball-only contract with Yorkshire this year, and given that English cricket’s priority is next year’s World Cup, to be played at home, it seemed perfectly reasonable for one of their best limited-overs players to focus on the shorter forms – especially considering his last Test engagement was the 2016 tour of India, where he was made to look thoroughly ordinary.

That decision has been vindicated by his form in white-ball cricket and he is now ranked inside the top 10 ODIs bowlers.

From an England perspective, this decision makes zero sense. Rashid took 23 wickets in five matches in India in 2016, at an average of 37.43 and a strike rate, 60.6, that shows his shortcomings in Tests. When batsmen aren’t under pressure trying to hit him for quick runs, and captains can’t protect him with boundary-riding fielders that allow him to attack, his effectiveness drops effectively – and that was on turning wickets in India.

Against the same batsmen, on England’s less helpful pitches? There is the tiniest chance this could be an inspired selection, but all the signs point to picking Rashid being a recipe for disaster.

It almost seems as if Rashid has been picked thanks to one magical ball against Virat Kohli in the ODIs, but picking a player for the Test team on the back of limited-overs form has never been a sensible policy.

And Yorkshire are entitled to feel hard done by, given that the player who wanted to play only white-ball cricket for them will now miss the latter stages of the T20 Blast because he’s on Test duty with England.

Last week, Rashid turned down the chance for a red-ball return in Yorkshire’s most recent County Championship match, the Roses fixture against Lancashire. His county were forced to draft in a spinner on an emergency loan.

But the criticism that has been directed Rashid’s way is unwarranted.

The bowler is entitled to bristle at the fact that he’s not received a word of congratulations from anyone at Yorkshire – standard practice for Test selection. Instead, he’s had to hear Yorkshire director of cricket Martyn Moxon saying he was “disappointed” at Rashid’s selection, and chief executive Mack Arthur’s reaction that he was “very surprised”. Both are justified in feeling that way – but that emotion should be directed at the ECB and its selection panel.

Reaching out to Rashid should have been the first thing both did, and their comments should have made clear that they bore him no ill-will for the selection itself, whatever may have transpired between player and team before this (he’s had a strained relationship with Yorkshire coach Andrew Gale since the day the latter was captain of the team and Rashid was a rising star).

Meanwhile, English cricket’s latest self-styled moral compass, former captain Michael Vaughan, who has taken turns being impressive and inane as a commentator and pundit, accused Rashid of being “unprofessional” and “a bit dozy”.

He was singing a different tune when England recalled Jos Buttler, another player on a self-imposed exile from red-ball cricket, this May against Pakistan on the back of a strong IPL.

What exactly was Rashid supposed to do? Turn down an England call? Sure, he might have received praise for standing his ground regarding his preference for white-ball cricket, and asserting his commitment to his county’s T20 and List A teams, but that’s an unfair moral standard to be applying.

Playing Test cricket for your country remains the pinnacle of any cricketer’s career – or so they keep telling everyone. And pundits from all sides are always worrying over the impending death of Test cricket, and how players’ preferences for T20 and ODIs is among the chief causes. After that, expecting a player, who let’s not forget is 30, to turn down selection is unrealistic.

The real story here is the ECB yet again showing its disregard for county cricket, by depriving Yorkshire of one of their best players during pivotal stages of their domestic T20 campaign, and by valuing ODI form over County Championship performances – even if nobody was quite sticking their hand up from that competition.

England say Rashid’s selection is a one-off, and that the selection panel has been told that playing county cricket is a prerequisite for being considered for the Test team.

But they picked Buttler on the back of IPL form, and they’ve picked Rashid now. The criticism should be aimed solely at the ECB and its selection committee.

Instead, they’ve made their leading leg-spinner a convenient scapegoat.

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