Cricket, once seen as the bedrock of the British empire, may be cast in a somewhat different role in the next few years if 19-year-old Bradford-born Adil Rashid continues his spectacular progess.
Monty Panesar managed the near impossible when he lifted up English hearts with his engaging nature and sometimes brilliant bowling during the Ashes debacle in Australia. Now Rashid is half way to arguably an even more formidble achievement. While Panesar, the bounding Sikh with a sunrise of a smile beneath his black patka, entranced much of the nation, Rashid has managed to charm much the most obdurately insular corner of his sport ... the dry, ultimately demanding followers of Yorkshire.
At a time when politicians talk of the increasing alienation of young Muslims in British society, Rashid is sailing through old barriers of prejudice. Rashid is only the third Yorkshire-born Asian to play for the county but when he steps up to the bowling- and batting-crease, pockets of racism are sent into full retreat.
He first called attention to himself in 2006 with a run of four consecutive centuries for the Yorkshire 2nd XI, but when he made his debut for the first team, he revealed a stunningly mature grasp of cricket's most bewitching art, the bowling of leg spin. He claimed six wickets for 67, the kind of performance that set Australian superstar Shane Warne on his way.
That first dramatic eruption of extraordinary natural talent has been confirmed in Yorkshire's first team and action with the England Under-19s and A team. Earlier this year he scored his maiden first-class century. Old hands in the game confirm a thrilling prospect.
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