Chris Waters: Rashid could well be the answer to England’s spin problem

Adil Rashid.
Adil Rashid.
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HE is a forgotten man of English cricket. Adil Rashid, the Yorkshire leg-spinner, is a stark reminder of how a star can fall as surely as it can rise.

When Rashid burst on the scene in 2006, announcing himself on debut with second innings figures of 6-67 against Warwickshire at Scarborough, there seemed no limit to what he might achieve.

The then 18-year-old was spoken of as England’s answer to the great Shane Warne, in the same way that any young all-rounder of promise is lazily compared to Sir Ian Botham or Andrew Flintoff, only for the reality to be somewhat different. Rashid was no Warne, but he was clearly a cricketer of tremendous talent

In 2009, aged 21, he played five one-day internationals and five Twenty20 internationals, which remains the extent of his England experience.

After a couple of outstanding seasons for Yorkshire, Rashid lost his way – even lost his place – and had to return to the drawing board.

His star had soared, flickered for a while but eventually fizzled out into an ember.

Amid all the talk of England’s search for a spinner, however, heightened by their failure to beat Sri Lanka at Lord’s, England could do worse than look at Rashid.

Jason Gillespie, his county coach and a former team-mate of Warne, believes Rashid would “not let anyone down” and is adamant he is bowling “the best he’s bowled since I returned to the club as coach”.

Liam Plunkett feels that his Yorkshire team-mate is “ready for Test cricket”.

Such pronouncements should not be idly dismissed.

Rashid, now 26, has 340 first-class wickets at 35 – most of them in Division One of the Championship – and almost 5,000 runs at 34, with eight hundreds.

England clearly have limited faith in Moeen Ali, their stop-gap spinner, and Peter Moores admitted post-Lord’s that the problem needs to be addressed.

“We are going to have to identify our next spinner, there’s no doubt about that,” said the England head coach. “All sides need the option of a frontline spinner to be able to play in all conditions. Otherwise, it’s going to be a weakness in our ranks that people will be able to try to exploit.”

The key is how we view Rashid. In Yorkshire, the realisation has long dawned he is a batsman who bowls, rather than the other way round – at least for now.

England do not have a viable out-and-out spinner (Monty Panesar excepted), so, if they are going to identify anyone, they need to pick from the “batsman who bowls” pool or else go for a complete rookie.

Of the batsmen who bowl and seem likeliest to take wickets, I believe Rashid is a much better bet than Moeen and also Scott Borthwick.

Rashid’s biggest problem – ironically the opposite of what it was at the start of his career – is that he does not bowl enough.

Yorkshire’s seam attack is just too strong, restricting his chances, and although he might find it hard to improve much more at Yorkshire, he might, perversely, do so at Test level through more bowling, thereby becoming much more of a front-line spinner. Like Plunkett, Rashid could flourish within the safety net of a five-man attack.

A star has dimmed but could yet twinkle again.