It Is more than three years since Adil Rashid spun a leg-break with the red ball, in which time he has won a World Cup and become England’s leading T20 wicket-taker.
But the appointment as Test coach of Brendon McCullum has acted like a googly — a career apparently heading in one direction may yet turn in the other. Suddenly, at 34, Rashid can envisage bowling more than 10 overs in an innings again.
‘It’s always exciting when something new comes along,’ he tells Sportsmail. ‘Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes both like to be positive and attacking. That drives me on and it’s very exciting.
Adil Rashid insists he has not ‘closed the door’ on a return to Test cricket for England
The most recent of Rashid’s 19 Tests came against West Indies in Barbados in January 2019
‘Brendon’s reached out to me — just a text to check how things are. I’ve not closed the door on Test cricket. I’ve not retired, or anything like that. It’s something that’s still there. It’s everyone’s dream to play Test cricket and I’m no different.’
After Rashid appeared in the most recent of his 19 Tests, against West Indies in Barbados in January 2019, the consensus was that five-day cricket was no longer his bag. He took none for 117 in an England defeat, was replaced by Stuart Broad in Antigua, and set about preparing for the home World Cup that summer. The rest is history.
But after both Rashid and his close friend Moeen Ali, who announced his retirement from Test cricket last September, were tapped up by McCullum, a seed was planted. Would it make a difference to Rashid if Ali announced his availability once more?
‘He’s like a brother to me,’ he says. ‘It’s definitely a conversation we’d have, and that would inspire me. It could happen. But for us to get to that point, a lot else has got to happen too.’
Rashid and his close friend Moeen Ali (right) were tapped up by new coach Brendon McCullum
Rashid is keen in the first instance not to leapfrog the current Test spinners — Jack Leach and Matt Parkinson — who he says ‘deserve their place’. Dom Bess has not been forgotten by England either.
Then he adds: ‘But things have changed. There are exciting times ahead.’ And he reiterates his central message: ‘For me, the door isn’t closed.’
A Test comeback is less outlandish than it may sound, especially with England visiting Pakistan for a three-match series before Christmas. If they opt for three spinners, it will not be for the first time.
In Sri Lanka in 2018-19, Rashid, Ali and Leach took 48 wickets between them at 24 apiece, and England won 3-0. Two winters earlier, in Bangladesh and India, Rashid collected five hauls of four wickets or more in seven Tests.
Of his 19 caps, 13 have been won in Asia. It is no disrespect to Leach or Parkinson to suggest Rashid may have a role to play in Karachi and Lahore. Rashid says he doesn’t think of his Test career as ‘unfinished business’, but is critical of his own performances back in 2016-17.
‘For an England leg-spinner to go to Bangladesh and India and take that many wickets was unusual,’ he says. ‘But the way I looked at it, I was leaking runs. In hindsight, I could have done a bit better in that respect.’
But the leg-spinner believes ‘exciting times’ are ahead after being tapped up by McCullum
Part of the reason for his recent focus on white-ball cricket has been a troublesome shoulder that required steroid injections to get him through the World Cup. But he says it no longer bothers him: ‘It’s been quite good now for a while, though I have to stay on top of it.’
He also acknowledges he will need to play Championship cricket for Yorkshire, who have four four-day fixtures in September, if he is going to make a case for Pakistan. And he hasn’t done that since 2017.
It all depends on a couple of factors: how well Leach and Parkinson get on in this summer’s Tests, and whether Yorkshire are pushing for the title. Their new coach Ottis Gibson is said to be open to using Rashid if the conditions are favourable.
As he says, a lot needs to take place first. But spinners age less quickly than fast bowlers, and Rashid believes time is on his side.
‘My aim is to play as long as possible,’ he says. ‘You never know what’s going to happen. I still feel like I’ve got a lot to give, both with ball and bat.’
Since his last Test, Rashid has won a World Cup and become England’s leading T20 wicket-taker