Almost six years since he last represented his country, Adil Rashid made what can only be described as a triumphant return to England’s one-day team in Tuesday’s outstanding performance against New Zealand.
The 27 year-old all-rounder played a big role in all areas of the game in England’s hugely entertaining victory over New Zealand. He provided well-balanced support for Joss Butler with the bat whilst he devastated the World Cup finalists with the ball, ending with 4/55.
Despite being part of the squad which toured the West Indies earlier this year, Rashid was not given the opportunity to show what he can do on the test match stage.
For the past year, the England selectors have persisted in utilising Moeen Ali as their number one spinner, and his sporadic performances have been greatly criticised by a large number of people, including former England batsman Allan Lamb.
Since his introduction into the five-day game last year, the Worcestershire all-rounder’s performances have been inconsistent and there is plenty of evidence to suggest that he does not have what it takes to represent England on the highest stage.
The majority of criticism directed at Ali has concerned his bowling performances which, since the series against India last summer, have been steadily in decline.
Despite being labelled as more of a batsman, his performances in this regard have not been much better.
In his seventeen innings for England, he has only managed two 50s and one century. What is more, he is the only member of the middle order which faced New Zealand in the recent Test Series who holds a test match average of less than 30 (28.50).
The fact that Ali is not good enough with either the bat or the ball means that someone else should be given the opportunity to take that number 8 spot in the England test side. There is no better candidate to replace Ali than Adil Rashid.
First and foremost, as a spinner of the ball, Rashid has had far more success than Ali, even in First Class Cricket.Even though he has only played four more first class matches than Moeen Ali (Rashid – 134, Ali – 130), Rashid boasts over 200 more wickets (392 compared to Ali’s -182).
What is more, Rashid’s bowling average currently stands at under 35 (34.18), while Ali’s is closer to 40 (39.44). Although it is not outstanding, Rashid’s average is very impressive, considering the fact that he bowls at Headingley, a pitch which is notoriously difficult for spinners. In addition, he comes close to matching the first class average of Graeme Swann (32.12), who went on to become England’s best spinner of recent times.
Likewise, it does not appear as though the selection of Rashid at Ali’s expense would damage England’s batting line-up. After all, the Yorkshireman comes close to averaging 36 with the bat for his county, only two runs fewer than Moeen Ali. With an average this impressive, there is no reason why Rashid can’t translate this success with the bat to the five-day game.
Finally, Rashid will be greatly aided on the test match scene by the fact that he is not a conventional off-spinner.
If he was to be included in the England test side, he would be one of very few leg-spinners in the test game, and he would give Alistair Cook a different dimension to work with. Not only are spinners of this kind incredibly rare in the modern game, but they tend to have great success.
Rashid’s ability to turn the ball both ways provides a constant threat to batsmen, and can help to rattle through the tail end, as evidenced by Tuesday’s ODI.
This is something that England in particular have struggled with in recent performances and if they make the decision not to pick Rashid for the upcoming Ashes series, Alistair Cook and his fellow selectors could come out the series wondering ‘what if’.
*Statistics obtained from ESPN Cricinfo