Ed Smith has defended his controversial decision to call up Adil Rashid for England’s first Test with India following a fiery response from Yorkshire over the leg‑spinner’s refusal to play first-class cricket for the club this season.
Rashid’s inclusion in a 13-man squad, with Moeen Ali returning and the uncapped Jamie Porter added to Joe Root’s stable of seam bowlers, was the eye-catching decision by Smith, the national selector, before the series opener at Edgbaston on Wednesday.
The 30-year-old Rashid negotiated a white-ball-only contract at Headingley at the start of the year and reacting to the news of his Test return – one based on his form as a mainstay of the England one-day side – the club issued a somewhat salty statement.
Mark Arthur, Yorkshire’s chief executive, said: “We’re very surprised that England have called Adil up after not playing red ball cricket this season. Neither has he expressed a desire to do so. I hope that England know what they’re doing to Adil, and the county game.”
Smith, however, insisted Yorkshire have been made aware of his interest in Rashid as a Test option for some time, saying talks took place before the one-day series with India, and added the leg-spinner’s issues at the club – believed to stem from a personality clash with the head coach Andrew Gale and a struggle to be part of the dressing room for the extended spells seen in four‑day cricket – were not his business on which to comment.
England squad to face India in first Test
Joe Root (Yorkshire, captain)
Moeen Ali (Worcestershire)
Jimmy Anderson (Lancashire)
Jonny Bairstow (Yorkshire, wicketkeeper)
Stuart Broad (Nottinghamshire)
Jos Buttler (Lancashire)
Alastair Cook (Essex)
Sam Curran (Surrey)
Keaton Jennings (Lancashire)
Dawid Malan (Middlesex)
Jamie Porter (Essex)
Adil Rashid (Yorkshire)
Ben Stokes (Durham)
“In no way is there any sense I would do anything to damage county cricket,” Smith said. “However, in these circumstances, where the context pre-dated my time as England selector, the panel unanimously felt the right selection was Adil Rashid. I believe strongly in the county game’s value. The other selections are strongly anchored in county cricket – [Essex’s] Jamie Porter has been the outstanding seam bowler for the last three seasons.”
Rashid declined to play for Yorkshire in the recent Roses match at Old Trafford during the lead-up to his Test selection – the club drafted in Josh Poysden on loan from Warwickshire – but senior figures at the England and Wales Cricket Board have told the selectors this situation is a strict one-off and in future all players must play first-class cricket to be picked for the Test side.
Responding to this news, given he is out of contract at the end of the year, Rashid told Sky Sports: “I’ve been at [Yorkshire] since I was 10 years old so this is home for me; we’ve got to sit down with [director of cricket] Martyn Moxon and myself and my dad and have a chat about the future. Things and people’s mindsets and feelings always change as they go on, so let’s see what happens.”
As a teammate of Rashid at Yorkshire, Root was understood to be torn over the decision, but Smith claims the Test captain fully endorsed it; with left-armer Jack Leach short on overs at Somerset following a broken thumb and concussion, and the heatwave in the UK likely demanding two spinners, England needed a bowler who turns the ball away from right-handers as a counterpoint to Moeen’s off-breaks.
Smith said: “I did more than consult [Root] . The decision was a unanimous one, the decision makers being myself, [new selector] James Taylor and head coach Trevor Bayliss, and also round that table was Joe Root. I would never want to say to a captain ‘have him’. Suppose he turns round and says: ‘I don’t want to bowl him.’
“I know Joe wishes to give Adil and Moeen the best environment to thrive in the Test team as they thrive in the one-day side. When it came to the final decision I asked all four if it was the right thing to do and the answer was ‘yes’ from all four.”
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The deployment of Moeen and Rashid will not unduly concern Virat Kohli’s tourists – they happily milked the pair for runs during their 4-0 win in India in 2016 – but the former is a force at home, as shown by 19 wickets against them four years ago and last summer’s star-showing versus South Africa. Rashid, 10 short of 500 first-class victims, is due to play his first Test in England, having won all 10 of his previous caps on tour.
Porter gets his first senior call-up after Chris Woakes was deemed to require more time with Warwickshire following knee and quad injuries. His selection will owe much to the endorsement of Chris Silverwood, the England bowling coach who was in charge when the right-armer powered Essex to the title last year.
While Somerset’s Dom Bess misses out to Moeen despite two encouraging Tests against Pakistan this summer – the latter’s five Test centuries won out, given a batsman will likely make way should conditions require two spinners – Sam Curran keeps his spot. Smith is a strong supporter of the Surrey left-armer, whose all-round talents could well be called upon when Ben Stokes misses the second Test at Lord’s due to his trial for affray in Bristol that begins on 6 August.