If Adil Rashid is the answer, the question appears to be controversial. Perhaps greater contention – as James Vince tweeted in an overdue moment of reasoned calm in amongst a 48-hour storm of confused and confusing antipathy – would have arisen had Rashid refused England’s call.
Imagine the fierce bitterness that would have flown in the direction of England’s premier leg-spinner had he refused to represent his country in cricket’s most illustrious format against the sport’s top side. Yet, to blame Rashid for what, on principle alone, is a deeply troubling debate is to sweep beyond those who asked him the question.
To accuse Rashid of disloyalty for having shown no desire to represent Yorkshire in the County Championship is noble. But at the same time, it tends to miss a crucial point. Reject England’s call at your peril. For any wrist-spinner, a brief perusal of the red-ball season would be sufficiently unappetising to wipe their hands of the long journeys, the thankless days spent clutching hand-warmers in the April damp. Of course, Rashid could well have reversed the decision that he stipulated in his own Yorkshire contract, especially as the sun baked down in this curious heatwave. However, it may well be, simply, that Rashid is not all that interested.
But now England have come calling, displaying the exact faith in Rashid that many felt was missing in his early international days. He has been headhunted by Ed Smith and his sidekicks. For a confidence bowler whose Test career had been blighted by questions of fragility, it is some endorsement. If the delivery that dismissed Virat Kohli in the third one-day international has been somewhat overhyped – of this there is no doubt, Rashid’s wider performance in the series was certainly impressive, even if the white-ball game holds no tangible pathway to Test greatness.
And that is really where the ECB enter the fray. For the rigours of four-day cricket, for Jack Leach, Dom Bess, Liam Dawson, Matt Parkinson, even Moeen Ali in the squad alongside Rashid, it is not a great look. Fundamentally, there is a stink of the unjust whirling around the situation. Yet, there is also a feeling of some logic – whether flawed, whether the very opposite of watertight.
As Smith fairly highlighted, England are facing an India side full of right-handers. With no standout spin option, bowling serviceable off-breaks at men brought up on that very diet does not bear thinking about. With Leach not deemed fit enough for consideration and Smith determined to have the ball spinning away from Kohli et al., that leaves – essentially – Rashid, Dawson, Parkinson and Joe Denly, a remodelled cricketer enjoying a superb second wind. Rashid is the obvious – perhaps only – option. It is, in the words of the chief selector, ‘an exceptional circumstance’.
England will not beat India because of their spinners. That much is almost certain. But the selector has a duty to pick what he views as the best side available. He has done, and Rashid has made the cut.