Former England skipper Alastair Cook today dismissed the furore over Adil Rashid, calling it an “obvious selection” and said the selectors made a “brave call” in picking him for the first Test against India.
Rashid was selected for the first of five Tests against India despite quitting red-ball cricket ahead of the 2018 county season and having not played a first-class game since September.
The decision has led to widespread debate over the last five days with former skipper Michael Vaughan and Nasser Hussian criticising the selectors’ decision.
“The way Adil has been playing and bowling for the one-dayers, it seemed quite an obvious selection. He has been bowling brilliantly but I know in a different format. In one sense, I feel a little bit sorry for Adil with all the political side of the selection, rather than looking at him,” said Cook.
“He’s gone away and worked really hard on his one-day skills and has been bowling brilliantly in the last two series. He’s been selected to play for England, which is a huge honour, and all this other stuff has overtaken it.
“It’s just because it’s unusual – it’s never really happened this way before. I don’t think it will happen very many times again.
“Obviously, Ed Smith (chief selector) says he needs to be playing red-ball cricket [to be selected in future] and I think that’s right. But sometimes in exceptional circumstances, selection goes a different way than you would like and obviously Ed and the selectors have made a brave call.”
Cook feels the selectors were hard pressed as they didn’t have much option at hand.
“It is interesting because it’s so unusual with the history of Adil saying he’s not playing red-ball cricket. But in the last couple of months, there have been some exceptional circumstances with a couple of the guys next in line, Jack Leach and Dom Bess.
“I played with him (Jack) in the Lions game, and he was probably a little bit short of match practice and that rhythm you need as a bowler. Dom is a very young spinner, right at the beginning of his career, so in one sense the selectors didn’t have too many options really,” he added.
The 33-year-old, who had resigned as England captain last year to pave the way for Joe Root, believes Rashid has matured as a cricketer and he will be able to cope with the situation after making a Test comeback.
“I think probably in the past Adil would have been (affected by this). Over the last 18-months – even though I haven’t played with him but just watching how he’s gone about his business in the one-dayers – I think he’s matured as a cricketer and improved since we last saw him in an England Test shirt,” he said.
“I think he’ll be fine. Clearly he’s going to be nervous because it’s a bit of time away from the England team and with the circumstances. But I genuinely think he will cope and he’s bowling really well.”
England also have the veteran pace duo of James Anderson and Stuart Broad returning from injury. With both ageing, there is once again debate whether the duo can last through the arduous series over six weeks.
Cook believes Anderson and Broad have the ability to soak in the pressure and hoped the duo can once again deliver for England like they have done in the past.
“I think it is realistic (for Anderson and Broad to last five back-to-back Tests). Even four or five years ago, the same question was being asked about those two guys. Can they play in all five games or in back-to-back Ashes series, and it always amazes me how many times they manage to get through it,” he said.
“It’s testament to their fitness and ability to soak up the demands on international cricket as a bowler. You never know and it is a big test for them. Just because Jimmy is 36 today, I do find it amazing those guys can do what they do so many times for England. Hopefully they can, but if they can’t it will be an opportunity for someone else.”
Talking about his Essex teammate Jamie Porter, who has been included in the Test team, Cook said: “You talk about the Adil selection, but there’s a guy who has been produced by county cricket: a really good English bowler.
“He’s earned his right to selection with 170-odd wickets in the last three years. He challenges the top order to play at a lot of balls and nips it around with the new Dukes ball. He’s an absolute trier. He always runs in all day for Essex and he’s fitted in pretty well.
“I have a lot of admiration for him. If he gets his chance this week or next week or whenever, I’ll be very proud that I’ve seen a guy come on to the staff at 22 – which is quite late – and now, when he’s 25 or 26, in a short space of time has become Essex’s strike bowler and the guy everyone turns to is down to his real hard work and skill.”