Jury is out as Yorkshire weigh up four-day spin options
IF there is any silver lining to Adil Rashid's decision to turn his back on red-ball cricket, it is that it gives an opportunity to his fellow spinners on the Yorkshire staff.
Azeem Rafiq and Karl Carver are in prime position to fill Rashid’s shoes, while Yorkshire have back-up spin in the form of batsmen Adam Lyth and Jack Leaning, plus promising youngsters James Logan and Jack Shutt.
Inevitably, Rashid’s departure leaves a sizeable hole in the County Championship side; he has taken 490 first-class wickets to go with 6,577 runs scored from the lower middle-order, and he would have been a useful asset even in the traditionally unfavourable spin bowling conditions of April/May, into which much of the tournament has been shunted.
But at least Yorkshire know that, whichever spin options they go with from here, they do have players who want to be on the field assisting them in their quest for a third Championship title in five years, as opposed to someone who openly admits that he does not want to be there and who seems primarily interested in pursuing T20 riches.
No doubts the rights and wrongs of Rashid’s decision – and Yorkshire’s willingness to accept his demands – will continue to be debated, with a personal opinion being that the player should have faced an ultimatum along the lines of: “Either you want to play for Yorkshire, or you do not. It’s entirely up to you.”
But the fact is a decision has been made, the respective parties are negotiating an amended contract, and Rashid will only be available to Yorkshire in the Royal London Cup and the Vitality T20 Blast.
The need now is to look forward and to consider how Yorkshire are going to fill the gap created by Rashid’s decision.
For Yorkshire director of cricket Martyn Moxon, who has been left disappointed by Rashid’s action, the club are starting with a blank sheet of paper.
Rafiq and Carver are the senior candidates, having played 38 and seven first-class matches respectively, but Lyth and Leaning are options, particularly during early season, perhaps, when specialist spinners might be considered a luxury.
“I think the jury is out,” said Moxon when reflecting on the issue. “We’ll just have to see how pre-season goes.
“It’s a position that’s up for grabs, and we’ll just have to see who’s bowling well.
“Obviously, Azeem Rafiq and Karl Carver are potential candidates, but Jack Leaning has been working hard on his bowling and we’ve got Adam Lyth, too.
“We’ve also got several young spinners in the background, like Logan and Shutt, so we’ll just have to see how pre-season goes and select accordingly.”
Rashid’s absence represents a particular chance for Rafiq and Carver, neither of whom have yet nailed down a Championship place.
Rafiq, 26, has done well to resurrect a career that not so long ago hit the buffers and saw him drop out of the county game.
A talented off-spinner, with a combative approach, Rafiq has mainly excelled in the one-day game where he has often seemed just as potent as Rashid.
He is also a useful batsman with a first-class hundred to his name, and, with an increasingly mature head on his shoulders, this could well be Rafiq’s time to shine.
Carver, 21, is a left-arm spinner with plenty of talent.
Like Rafiq, his value to Yorkshire has perhaps been more evident in white-ball cricket, but the club have a long tradition of left-arm spinners and it will be intriguing to see how he progresses.
Carver let no one down in the final Championship match of last season, when he picked up two first innings wickets against champions Essex, and he is a work in progress.
Given that his previous first-team appearance had seen him hit for six sixes in an over by Worcestershire’s Ross Whiteley at Headingley last July, it was a gutsy comeback from Carver that bodes well for the future.
The bottom line – whether he was handed a white-ball only contract or not – is that Yorkshire are without Rashid’s services in the Championship this year.
With the club having ruled out signing a specialist replacement, it means that someone from within the current squad will have to take that place.
As such, it is a golden chance for whoever is good enough to grasp it, and they will not lack for support from Moxon and the coaches.
The Rashid saga has been an unsavoury one and it can only be hoped that some good will come out of it for one of his spin bowling colleagues.