‘Leading man’ Adil Rashid embraces biggest test yet as England target World Cup glory
The Yorkshire all-rounder has had a busy few weeks – picked for the first West Indies Test in Barbados, dropped after going wicketless in a heavy defeat and then released from the squad to return for the birth of his second child.
Now he is back in the Caribbean for a five-match ODI series, starting tomorrow at the Kensington Oval.
There is plenty there for the leg-spinner to process. He was happy to be with his family at such an important moment, but it was clear England’s willingness to send him home was as much on selectorial grounds as compassionate ones and the 31-year-old again faces an uncertain future in the five-day format.
“I’m still a long way off becoming that world-beater in Test cricket,” admitted Rashid, who was recalled to the side last summer despite being in the middle of a red-ball hiatus with Yorkshire.
“You have the odd performance here and there, but to back it up consistently has so far been a bit of a challenge.
“The last game was tough as a spinner, but that’s Test cricket, you’re bound to be tested.
“Obviously you want to play, but if you don’t play and you can go home and support your family, that was very good from England to give me that chance and it was greatly appreciated.”
With attention moving to limited-overs cricket for the next five months – a period the England and Wales Cricket Board desperately hope will end with a famous World Cup tournament win on home soil – Rashid instantly goes from peripheral player to leading man.
Since the last World Cup in 2015 Rashid has taken 116 one-day international wickets, second only to Afghanistan’s Rashid Khan and 40 more than the next nearest Englishman, former Yorkshire team-mate Liam Plunkett.
He is the point of difference in Eoin Morgan’s arsenal and the man most likely to break a partnership or spark a collapse.
It is a role with which he has gradually come to terms.
“The preparation now is white-ball cricket so I focus on that, my strengths, what I’m looking to work on leading up to the World Cup and beyond,” he said.
“I get in the right mindset, look to work on my tricks and work on my deliveries. My strength is coming on and bowling my variations. I look to adjust what I’m bowling depending on the conditions, but first and foremost, as a spinner, you have to stick to your own strengths. It’s the same as it’s been for the last three or four years.”
Rashid’s ability is sure to be tested if he comes up against Chris Gayle in the next couple of weeks. The 39-year-old self-styled ‘Universe Boss’ has announced he will retire after the World Cup and will be eager to leave his mark on bowlers during his lap of honour.
“He’s only human and we all make mistakes,” said Rashid.
“There are obviously some concerns, but you have to believe in yourself, be confident that you can get him out. It only takes one ball for him to make a mistake and get out. If he gets hold of me, he gets hold of me. As a spinner you’ve got to have a big heart and come back and get him out.”
England’s challenges do not end after the World Cup, with a home Ashes series following close behind, but Rashid’s involvement in that contest is less assured.
“The summer is a long way ahead. I don’t look too far,” he said.
“If I’m not selected by England we’ll communicate with Yorkshire and come to an agreement over what is best for the team and myself.”