Adil Rashid has returned to the Caribbean ready to put a disappointing experience in the Barbados Test behind him and start focusing on England’s “exciting” white-ball challenge over the coming months.
Rashid flew home between the first and second Tests to attend the birth of his second child, spending ten days with his family having been told by England he would not be involved in Antigua. He might also be excited by a few nights of uninterrupted sleep and, with his legspin a key weapon in England’s white-ball attack, Eoin Morgan will hope he is at his sharpest as his side begins to ramp up their World Cup preparations.
He was back in the XI for England’s thumping warm-up victory on Sunday, taking 2 for 21 from seven overs. But having been part of the Test team’s heavy opening defeat last month, as West Indies went on to defy their lowly ranking to win the series, Rashid is wary of looking too far ahead.
“The World Cup will be massive,” he said. “We’re all looking forward to that. But there’s a lot of cricket to be played before then. We can’t take this series lightly, we’re going to give it 100%.
“It is important to start any game well. We won’t look too far ahead knowing there is a World Cup and Ashes, it is still a long way away. Take it a game at a time. We’re just looking to concentrate on this West Indies series.”
Rashid is England’s highest-rated bowler, currently at No. 8 in the ICC rankings, and has been a consistent performer since being recalled in 2015. While his Test career may have stalled again, after taking 0 for 117 at Kensington Oval, he is more at ease in the limited-overs formats, where Morgan has encouraged his development as a middle-overs wicket-taker who does not always have to worry about his economy rate.
“[My role is the] same as it has been for past three or four years. Nothing changes. It’s to create chances, look to bowl variations and if it happens, great, and if it doesn’t, fine. So I think my role is that same as I’ve been doing for the past three or four years.”
West Indies, despite their struggles in the 50-over format, have several destructive batsmen in their line-up – not least Chris Gayle, who has announced his impending retirement from the ODI format and will be looking to sign off in style during what could turn out to be a farewell tour of the Caribbean. Rashid, however, is used to being in the crosshairs.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “It’s a challenge for everybody, we have people who hit the ball a long way [too]. It’s exciting for me, I can put my game plans into place, use my variations and being clever with what you bowl. I’m looking forward to it.
“There are obviously some concerns [about bowling to Gayle] but you have to believe in yourself, you’ve got to have confidence. You have to go out and stick to your strengths and be confident that you can get him out. He’s only human. We’re all human and make mistakes. So it only takes one ball for him to make a mistake and get out. It’s that kind of mindset that we need.”
As for his chances of being part of attempts to win back the Ashes later in the summer, Rashid was reluctant to be drawn. It is almost exactly a year since he chose to sign a white-ball only contract with Yorkshire, before making an unexpected Test comeback during the India series, and last week he was the subject of encouraging words from his spin partner, and great friend, Moeen Ali when he said Rashid still had the ability to be “one of the best in the world”.
“Nice coming from him,” Rashid said. “If that is what he believes – he must see something in me, that’s why he said it. But you have to work hard and have performances day in, day out. I’m still a long way off that in Test cricket becoming that world-beater. You have the odd performance here and there but to back it up consistently has so far been a bit of a challenge or whatever.
“Now the preparation is white-ball cricket. Focus on that, my strengths, what I’m looking to work on, whatever it is leading up to the World Cup and beyond.”