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 today.
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.
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.
“Looking at the surface, we’ve decided we only want to go with one spinner, and that’s going to be Adil.
“With the amount of right-handers in what we think is going to be India’s team, he gives us a very attacking option.
“I’m very excited about that. I think he’s obviously bowling with a huge amount of confidence.”
Root 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.”
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, former England and Yorkshire legend Geoff Boycott said: “He should never have been handed a Test recall. In two years England have gone around in a circle. By picking Rashid, they are selecting the unselectable: a player who will not play four-day Championship cricket for Yorkshire because his heart is not in it, but he will play for England in Test matches. Absurd? Yes.”
Root is 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.”
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.
England: JE Root (Captain), AN Cook, KK Jennings, DJ Malan, JM Bairstow (wkt), BA Stokes, JC Buttler, SM Curran, AU Rashid, SCJ Broad, JM Anderson
India (possible): V Kohli (Captain), KL Rahul, M Vijay, C Pujara, A Rahane, D Karthik (wkt), H Pandya, R Ashwin, I Sharma, M Shami, U Yadav
Umpires: A Dar (Pak) and C Gaffaney (NZ)