Adil Rashid: 'It was so tough to be left out but as a new boy you have to cope'

The Yorkshire leg-spinner tells Jon Culley that being sent back to county cricket was the making of him... and that he still dreams of going on the Ashes tour
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None of cricket's specialist performers engender quite such passionate arguments as those surrounding leg-spinners. A good leggie is the game's most sought-after commodity, especially when the practitioner of the art happens to have the extra rarity of being English.

In sagely historical cricket minds, England has not produced a leg- spinner of genuine international quality since Doug Wright of Kent took 108 wickets in 34 Tests between 1938 and 1951. Potential successors have come and gone, but with such substantial gaps in between that when one has emerged he has tended to be accompanied by fanfare and expectation on a wholly disproportionate scale, as happened when an inexperienced Chris Schofield was awarded a central contract in 2000 only to be discarded after two Tests. Arguments over his treatment raged for years.

Similarly vexed debate has developed around Adil Rashid, the Yorkshire leg-spinner who took 6 for 67 on his first-class debut at 18 and was in England's one-day side last summer, at 21, ready to be fast-forwarded into Test cricket. But last November, with England in South Africa, he went for 25 in a single Twenty20 over and conceded 25 in three overs in a one-day international, since which time he has been ignored.

Mickey Arthur, the South Africa coach, said Rashid's treatment was "criminal". Graham Thorpe, the former England batsman, said his non-selection for either series against Bangladesh was "frankly ridiculous". A headline in one Sunday newspaper attributed Yorkshire's cricket director, Martyn Moxon, with an accusation that the selectors were "ruining Rashid's career".

Yet amid this polemic, the player himself cuts a calm, unruff-led figure, bowling his overs for Yorkshire with increasing success as the county enjoy their unexpected status as favour-ites for the Championship. Indeed, weighing everything up, he feels he is probably in the right place.

"Obviously the South Africa tour did not go according to plan," he said. "I was disappointed, but the answer was to work hard on my bowling. It was tough at the time to be left out but as a new boy on tour you have to cope. I kept myself to myself, didn't go running to the captain to complain, and just looked forward to pre-season with Yorkshire.

"I was not too disappointed about being left out of the Bangladesh series because I feel that to concentrate on playing for Yorkshire in all competitions was what I needed.

"The England selectors have said they want me to play more cricket and they don't want to take me in a 12 just to carry the drinks. They never really said they were leaving me out for a specific time, just that they wanted me to play more cricket."

So far this season, he has taken 42 wickets in first-class matches and a further 25 in Twenty20. He is the mainstay of Yorkshire's bowling and the prescription is yielding clear results. "Having a run of games has been good for me," he said. "As a spinner, it is key to play games, day in and day out. You need match practice.

"Now I feel I am bowling well and the most pleasing thing is my consistency. I've bowled tight and taken wickets consistently in Twenty20, and in the Championship I've taken 21 in the last three games.

"I've developed quite a few variations now, the leg-spinner, top- spinner, slider, googly, and a quicker off spinner. And I think there is a lot of improvement to come."

A batsman of natural talent – he has four first-class centuries to his name – he has also been a handy source of late-order runs, although bowling commands more of his attention. "The batting is more instinctive; the bowling is more about setting plans and working to them.

"In South Africa I feel I wasn't experienced enough, I wasn't thinking as I'm thinking now. I felt I was playing quite well but it was one game here and there and that is the difference between then and now. The older you get, the more you play cricket, the more confident you become."

Rashid is without a doubt a player who needs encouragement, and it clearly helps to be a member of a Yorkshire side whose new captain, Andrew Gale, dispenses it with a natural gift.

"Andrew has a positive mindset and plays aggressive cricket," Rashid said. "He inspires confidence, likes to help the younger players and be a leader. I think the younger players have a stronger connection with him because he is young too, although he has the respect of the older players too. I'm not really surprised that we have done as well as we have."

Elsewhere, older voices continue to serve him well. He is still in contact with Terry Jenner, the man who taught Shane Warne how to bowl and who has been helping Rashid's development since he was a 14-year-old academy boy, and the influence of his father, Abdul, remains strong.

"He taught me how to spin the ball before I learned anything else in cricket. He talks to me a lot, like any father would. He is always there for me, giving me encouragement and belief, always thinking positive, and he has helped me through bad times as well. His message has been to keep going, to keep believing you are good enough to play cricket at any level and hopefully you will be successful."

Rashid's patience owes much to the fact that, at 22, he knows that he is some way short of what is considered prime time for a leg-spinner, indeed any spinner. He reminds you that Graeme Swann "came to maturity quite late". The off-spinner holding sway as England's premier slow bowler played his first Test at 29.

However, that does not mean Rashid is not ambitious. Despite seemingly having slipped off the radar with the selectors, who currently seem to favour the able but much less threatening James Tredwell as Swann's likely accomplice in a Test series, he sees a place in the winter's Ashes squad as not beyond his reach.

"I'd be delighted to play against Pakistan, given that my family are from Pakistan, but at this time I don't think I'll be part of the squad because I think they [the selectors] just want me to play county cricket

"Looking beyond that, I'm looking to play for Yorkshire, be part of a Championship-winning team and, hopefully, if that is the case, finish with loads of wickets. If I do that, there is no reason I should not be a candidate to go to Australia."

In a spin: Adil's Ashes rivals

Graeme Swann will be England's No 1 in Australia but contenders to be the second specialist slow bowler are thin on the ground.

James Tredwell The 28-year-old Kent off-spinner has played one Test – in Bangladesh earlier this year. A consistent performer in county cricket but failed to take a wicket for England Lions in their one-day series against India A and West Indies A. It is hard to imagine him bowling out Australia.

Monty Panesar The next big thing until two years ago, the left-arm spinner lost his place after a low-key performance in the first Ashes Test last year and has not played since. Failed even to merit inclusion in England's performance squad this year.

Michael Yardy The Sussex all-rounder's slow left-arm, operating in tandem with Swann, was a key feature in England's World Twenty20 triumph and transferred well to 50-over cricket but he probably does not have the game for Test cricket.

Jon Culley

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