Adil Rashid is hugely frustrating. He has the attributes to be England's frontline spinner in all formats. He has been a massive part of Yorkshire's success in recent years as they won two titles and then finished second this year. He has got more than 50 wickets in a first-class season twice and claimed 49 victims in another. He should be in the England side for every match and should have played 50 Tests by now.
Yet he has never staked his claim for a place in the Test team and has only recently been an automatic selection in white ball formats. Rashid made his international debut seven years ago at the 2009 World T20 in England and played his first ODI later that same year against Ireland. Still he has played for England only 62 times in all formats, the vast majority of which have come in the last 12 months. For a player of his talent that isn't good enough.
Rashid began making headlines as long ago as 2006 when he scored a hundred and took eight wickets in an under-19 Test match against India. That under-19 squad included Moeen Ali and Steven Finn, and while they have cemented places in the England Test team, the same cannot be said of Rashid who had to wait until 2015 for his Test debut.
The arrival of Trevor Bayliss as England coach led to a massive increase in opportunities for Rashid, who didn't play for England since 2009 before the start of the summer of 2015. Since May 2015, Rashid has played 52 matches for England, but only five of those have been Tests.
The biggest, and very straightforward, reason for Rashid's failure to make it as a Test cricketer is that he bowls far too many bad balls. He will bowl full tosses, long hops and a lot of other filth in between. The reason the current England team is keen to look past those boundary balls is because Rashid takes wickets.
In ODIs, he has taken 48 wickets since he was recalled into the team in 2015. The next highest wicket-taker over that same period for England is David Willey with 29. Rashid has taken a wicket every 36 balls in ODIs since his recall, the best strike rate for an England bowler in that period.
In his five Tests, three in the UAE versus Pakistan and two in Bangladesh, his record is nowhere near as impressive as the ODI numbers. He has taken 15 wickets in his five matches at an average of 51. He concedes four runs an over and has only taken a wicket every 13 overs. For Rashid to succeed as a Test player he needs to bring down his economy rate or his strike rate and by doing either of those he will improve his average.
For that to happen England need to persevere with him. He has improved massively in ODIs and T20 internationals since he was given a long run in the side, and there is no doubting that England backing him for all five Tests in India, whether he is an immediate success or not, will benefit him in the long run.
The issue will always be the immediacy of results. While it might be nice to just toss Rashid the ball, hope for the best and shrug your shoulders as Virat Kohli launches him over long on for six, there is a series to be won. Rashid's average, economy rate and strike rate make him a luxury bowler - one that is great to have in the team but who has to be covered if it isn't his day. In the baking heat of India the seamers having to come back to bowl because Rashid is being clobbered is a lot to ask of them.
But when Rashid gets it right he can run through sides, especially the lower order. For Yorkshire he has made cleaning up the tail something of an art form. We saw what he can do in the second innings of the second Test in Bangladesh where he took four wickets in a seven-over spell to finish off the innings. The prospect of having a bowler who can do that on a regular basis is mouth-watering.
Moeen Ali will play every Test in India; his ability to bat in the top six means he balances this team. You would hope that England will start with Rashid in the first Test in Rajkot, but if he starts going for loads of runs, the England team management may think that Zafar Ansari or Gareth Batty will offer more control.
This winter will either be the end of the beginning of Adil Rashid's Test career or the beginning of the end.
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First Published On : Nov 7, 2016 18:11 IST