HARD though it is to believe for those of us who remember his first-class debut as if it was yesterday, Adil Rashid turns 30 next month.
It was in July, 2006 that the Yorkshire leg-spinner, then 18, burst on the scene against Warwickshire at Scarborough, taking six second-innings wickets to help his side to an innings win.
Since then, Rashid has taken – mark this figure – 490 first-class wickets.
Yet he has played just 10 Tests in a 12-year career, his talent, in my view, wasted by England.
As England prepare to hand fellow leg-spinner Mason Crane a Test debut against Australia in Sydney, unless the noises emanating from the tourists’ camp turn out to be deceptive, it is pertinent to ponder the case of Rashid.
Last winter, when he finally got a run in the Test team with seven games against Bangladesh and India, Rashid captured 30 wickets and bowled well overall.
As India romped to a 4-0 win in the five-Test series after the Bangladesh leg, with India captain Virat Kohli averaging over 100, Rashid was one of the few shining lights, his return of 23 wickets the third-best on either side behind the Indian pair of Ravi Ashwin (28) and Ravi Jadeja (26).
Whereas Rashid took those 23 wickets at 37, his spin bowling team-mate Moeen Ali managed only 10 in the five Tests at 64, and yet it was Rashid who was dropped after the winter, perhaps never to be seen again in Test cricket.
Although Moeen performed well in the summer just gone, emulating Rashid’s winter achievement of taking 30 wickets in a run of seven games, in his case against South Africa and the West Indies, his ongoing struggles in Australia have led to calls for Crane to be blooded.
Moeen – who could yet keep his place if England choose to play two spinners in Sydney – has taken three wickets in the four Tests against Australia at 135 to go with 136 runs at 19, averages that would only be impressive if they were the other way round.
For years, English cricket has been crying out for a top-quality leg-spinner and yet, for the most part, it has bypassed one with almost 500 first-class victims to his name.Chris Waters
As it is, they represent a miserable and, to some extent, a mystifying return by a man who looks well down on confidence.
Moeen, incredibly, has never considered himself to be the No 1 spinner, even though he has enjoyed that status for some time, which suggests a fundamental lack of confidence to boot.
If Crane does get his chance at the SCG, as England seek a win that would see the series finish 3-1 to Australia, every Englishman will, of course, wish him well.
The 20-year-old has already played two T20 internationals and has looked the part in white-ball cricket – the area that England believe is Rashid’s strongest suit.
But whereas Rashid has taken his 490 first-class wickets at 35 (to go with 6,577 runs at 33), Crane has captured 75 first-class wickets at 43 and scored 277 runs at 12.
He was not even a regular for Hampshire last season, when he managed 16 County Championship wickets at 44, and his selection for the Ashes tour drew widespread surprise.
All of which is not to denigrate Crane, who is an excellent prospect, but to highlight the curious treatment of Rashid.
For years, English cricket has been crying out for a top-quality leg-spinner and yet, for the most part, it has bypassed one with almost 500 first-class victims to his name.
Had Rashid been born in Brisbane as opposed to Bradford, it is reasonable to suppose that Australia might have given him more of an opportunity.
Instead, after carrying the drinks numerous times down the years, Rashid had to wait until he was 27 to be given his Test debut, while he has never played a Test on these shores.
England, in my view, have simply not been brave enough.
They were too slow to blood Rashid in the first place and then too quick to discard him.
For some reason, they do not fancy him in Test cricket amid suggestions that they believe he lacks the feistiness and fighting mentality of someone like Crane.
Although captains, coaches and selectors can only go on instinct, it would be a tall order indeed to argue that Rashid has been competently treated by England, and that they have got the best out of a talent that announced itself so memorably at Scarborough in 2006.