Joe Root hopes he is inheriting the Test-match skills of Adil Rashid at the perfect time.
The England captain confirmed his fellow Yorkshireman, subject of an open-season reaction since his controversial selection in a 13-man squad last week, will be the sole spinner to take on India in the first Test at Edgbaston on Wednesday.
Root spelled out too that, contrary to some rumblings, he needed no persuading about Rashid’s recall – at a time when the leg-spinner has no first-class contract with Yorkshire or any apparent plans to return to County Championship action this summer.
He senses Rashid’s significant white-ball improvement for club and country indicates that, at the age of 30, he has matured to the point that he should be ready to do himself and England full justice at Test level.
Starting in their landmark 1,000th Test, England will certainly need him to be more of a threat than his career figures to date suggest – after 38 wickets at an average of 42.78 from 10 overseas caps.
Opinion divided on Adil Rashid's recall. Imho, ECB selectors have set a wrong precedent by picking a player for Tests who does not want to play first-class cricket. #EngvInd— Mazher Arshad (@MazherArshad) July 31, 2018
Root has known Rashid throughout his own professional career, having followed him up through the ranks at Yorkshire, and said: “He’s very talented – he always has been.
“I think over the last couple of years… he has grown as a player massively. He’s got high skill levels, which I think are very transferable into Test cricket. I’ve known Adil for a long time, seen his success over the last year in white-ball cricket and feel I have an opportunity to get the best out of him in this format now.”
Rashid’s chance comes at the expense of fellow spinner Moeen Ali, who alongside uncapped seamer Jamie Porter has not graduated from squad to team.
Root added: “(Adil) is bowling with a huge amount of confidence at the minute… (and) has matured a hell of a lot since he last played Test cricket. Obviously I was in favour of the selection, and I think it gives us a really great attacking spinning option.”
He believes the furore in some quarters over Rashid’s selection – despite his current white-ball only status, and including in part from Yorkshire – has been misplaced.
“In terms of the criticism, people are entitled to their opinions and can voice what they want,” said Root. “I probably think it’s slightly unfair – but (that’s) my opinion.”
Root is also reassured by national selector Ed Smith’s assertion that Rashid, and anyone else from next season onwards, must be playing red-ball cricket to be in the Test reckoning.
“I think… putting that rule in place as of next year, it makes it very clear for everyone,” he said. “If they see themselves as someone who wants to play Test cricket they have to get themselves a red-ball contract and perform in county cricket.”
BUTTLER AS VICE-CAPTAIN
England made a second notable announcement on Tuesday, that Jos Buttler will be vice-captain for the remainder of the campaign – just two matches into his comeback, also on the back of outstanding limited-overs form.
“He is obviously vice-captain of the white-ball sides,” said Root. “He thinks extremely well about the game, and has a huge amount of respect within the dressing room. Looking at very long term, five to 10 years, I see him as someone who can really drive this team forward – and I think it’s a great opportunity for him to start doing that now.”
Buttler takes over from James Anderson, himself an interim appointment during last winter’s Ashes while permanent incumbent Ben Stokes was unavailable.
Here, we take a look at some key statistics ahead of the potential blockbuster.
19 – It has been exactly 19 months since leg-spinner Adil Rashid last played a Test match for England.
1 – Under Kohli’s captaincy, India have played only one overseas Test series outside Asia. It ended in a 1-2 defeat to South Africa.
3 – Number of Test series won by India in England. They have lost 13 of the 17 Test series in England.
1000 – The Edgbaston Test will be the 1,000th played by England in its history. They will become the first team to do so.
2.7 – The average number of wickets England pacer James Anderson picks up in the first innings at Birmingham.
1 – The number of surviving members from the Indian squad which last won a Test series in England (2007). Only Dinesh Karthik remains.
2 – The number of Tests England have won in their last 10 encounters. The wins came against Pakistan and West Indies.
0 – The number of centuries Joe Root has registered in his last 10 Tests. His most recent ton came against Windies last summer.
Alastair Cook insists Adil Rashid is mature enough to handle the occasion of his controversial Test recall.
The former England captain concedes the leg-spinner might in his younger years have found it tough to set aside the furore which has followed his shock inclusion in a 13-man squad to face India at Edgbaston this week.
But Cook senses that at 30, and after the sustained white-ball improvement which persuaded national selector Ed Smith that Rashid may be worth a punt in England’s 1,000th Test, the Yorkshireman can cope with the spotlight.
Rashid found himself in the eye of a storm after Smith risked inevitable flak by naming him despite his limited-overs only status since he announced five months ago his new club contract would cover no first-class cricket.
Among those to make their displeasure clear were Yorkshire themselves and ex-England skipper Michael Vaughan – who as an outspoken pundit these days, described the situation as “ridiculous” and a “stab in the back” for county cricket.
Asked if Rashid may find it difficult to give his best in such exacting circumstances, Cook said: “I think probably in the past he would have.
“(But) over the last 18 months I think he’s matured as a cricketer and improved since we last saw him in an England Test shirt.
I really like the Rashid pick. It is about having the best players. Rashid has proved in the ODI series he can take Indian wickets.— Peter Miller (@TheCricketGeek) July 26, 2018
FYI - Ben Stokes has played two county championship matches in the last two years. Adil Rashid has played seven.
“I think he’ll be fine. Clearly he’s going to be nervous but I genuinely think he will cope, he’s bowling brilliantly.”
Cook voiced his sympathy too for Rashid, who has had to deal with aggravation rather than being allowed to celebrate his first call-up since the last of his 10 previous caps in December 2016.
“In one sense, I feel a little bit sorry for Adil – all the political side of the selection, rather than looking at him,” Cook said.
“He’s been selected to play for England, which is a huge honour, and all this other stuff has overtaken it.
“I can understand why it’s caused a bit of fuss. But you just have to get on with it and I think we should be concentrating on the positives, rather than the negatives.
“We’ve got a different style of English spinner, with a little bit of mystery to him, who’s bowling really well.
“That is what we should be excited about – not really what’s happening with the off-field stuff, Yorkshire and all that.”
Cook does not believe a significant precedent has been set to clear the way for what will be Rashid’s first Test on home soil if he makes the XI on Wednesday.
“I don’t think it will happen very many times again,” he said.
“Obviously, Ed said you need to be playing red-ball cricket [to be selected in future] – and I think that’s right. But sometimes in exceptional circumstances, selection goes a different way than you would like – and obviously Ed and the selectors have made a brave call.”