ADIL RASHID believes he is in the form of his life as he attempts to spin Yorkshire to the County Championship title and himself back into England contention.
The leg-spinner feels he has never bowled better and is determined to end the season on a high.
Rashid has taken 24 wickets in the last four County Championship games – three of which have resulted in Yorkshire victories – to play a key part in the club’s push for silverware.
A strong finish to the summer could not only help Yorkshire secure their first title since 2001, but also enhance Rashid’s prospects of returning to England colours five years after he last represented his country.
“I feel I’m bowling as well as I’ve ever bowled,” said Rashid, who played five one-day internationals and five T20 internationals in 2009.
“I definitely think I’ve been more consistent this season than in previous years, and that’s been the most pleasing thing from a personal point of view.
“I think I’m doing the basics well and it’s a good time to get into form with the team pushing for the title.
“I’m having more and more of a part to play with the pitches being dry and, hopefully, I can carry it on until the end of the season.”
Rashid took eight wickets and scored an unbeaten 159 in Yorkshire’s innings win against Lancashire last week.
His second innings figures of 5-117 were his best for over a year, and after a relatively slow start with the ball in which he played second fiddle to Yorkshire’s much-vaunted seam attack, he has lately come into his own.
Now 26, Rashid is also a lot more settled off the field, having become a father for the first time this summer.
He has the air of a man who is happy with his lot.
“I do feel a lot more settled,” said Rashid, who made his Yorkshire first team debut in 2006, aged just 18. “I think, as you get older, and as time goes on, you start changing and recognising what’s what a bit more.
“As for the cricket, I’ve just been working hard and concentrating on having a positive mindset and looking to get wickets.
“Some days it goes my way, some days it doesn’t.”
It has mostly been going Rashid’s way in recent times, and the England selectors are bound to take note.
The man himself insists he is “not thinking about England” but, privately, he must harbour hopes of returning to international duty – possibly even before next summer.
“The main thing for me is just trying to be aggressive,” he said. “I need to always be aggressive and look to take wickets.
“There’s no point worrying about going for runs.
“My job is to mix it up and bowl my variations, which is what I’ve been doing for the last couple of months.”
Rashid has also been focusing on varying his pace.
“I’ve tried to mix my pace up quite a bit,” he reflected.
“Obviously it depends on the pitches, but it’s an important weapon in a spinner’s armoury.
“Some pitches take quick spin, some don’t.
“It’s all about adapting to conditions and trying to give batsmen something to think about.”
Jason Gillespie, the Yorkshire first-team coach, believes Rashid’s ability to adapt his pace has been the most significant improvement to his bowling this year.
Gillespie feels he has found the perfect pace for a leg-spinner – one that allows him to attack rather than allows batsmen to attack him.
“I think Adil is bowling at optimum pace at the moment, and that’s making a big difference,” said Gillespie. “He’s spinning the ball hard and not allowing batsmen to settle. To be honest, I can’t speak highly enough of him and how he’s going about his work this year, and he’s got a really good grasp of his craft at the moment and is causing plenty of problems for teams.
“We’re hoping that, with the conditions we expect to encounter for the rest of the season, he will play an increasingly important role.”
Gillespie has made no secret of his view that Rashid is good enough to gain an international recall. Rashid has fallen behind the likes of Moeen Ali in the international pecking order, but there are many good judges – among them former England captain Michael Vaughan – who believe England could benefit from taking another look at the Yorkshire player.
“For my money, Adil is up there with the best spinners going around in county cricket,” added Gillespie.
“He’s been really, really good this year and he’s putting in the work, putting in the effort.
“His job is to try to maintain that and, eventually, people will sit up and take notice.
“His performances lately have been really top drawer, and I couldn’t be happier with him.”