It is somewhat ironic that Adil Rashid will have to take on not just Virat Kohli and his star-studded India at Edgbaston but also seemingly most of Yorkshire on a day dedicated to the white rose.
Not even ‘Yorkshire day’ is likely to bring together the warring forces of Rashid and pundits like Michael Vaughan and Geoffrey Boycott, who on Tuesday labelled him a ‘spoilt brat’, in time for the start of a seismic series on Wednesday.
The latest bout of internal strife in a county that has long specialised in it is hardly helpful to England’s chances against the best Test team in the world and there is no doubt an often fragile character is under enormous pressure.
Adil Rashid will not just be taking on India but seemingly Yorkshire as well after his inclusion
Joe Root – another Yorkshireman who has apparently had doubts about Rashid at Test level before now – backed the leg-spinner on Tuesday but could hardly have left him out of England’s side after the furore of the last week.
Clearly England planned to include Rashid and Moeen Ali when they picked their first Test squad but Edgbaston just does not look like a two-spinner pitch, even though India are likely to go with Ravichandran Ashwin and Kuldeep Yadav.
So Rashid will have to shoulder England’s spinning burden without his great friend Moeen at the start of a Specsavers series that will not only make or break him at this level but will also tell us if Root’s England are able to arrest their Test decline.
Joe Root has got a great idea of how to captain the leg-spinner who he’s known for many years
To that end the decision to name Jos Buttler as Root’s vice-captain just two games into his Test comeback is as significant as Ed Smith’s audacious move to select Rashid despite his refusal to play red-ball cricket for his home county.
England are trying to replicate the formula that has seen them so successful in white-ball cricket and, as Sportsmail revealed, they want Root, Buttler, Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow to lead across all formats.
Buttler, who will surely become white-ball captain after next year’s World Cup, has been named deputy only for this five-match series, with Stokes perhaps back in the frame after his legal issues.
Yet clearly new national selector Smith, who has been bold and brave in his first summer, sees Buttler (right) as the best man to succeed Root as long as he proves that he can bring his unique gifts to the Test stage.
There is no doubt Root has been a disappointment as Test captain so far and has yet to prove he can be the bold, imaginative leader he was expected to be when succeeding Alastair Cook.
It is fascinating England have taken the vice-captaincy away from Jimmy Anderson in favour of their younger, perhaps more dynamic group. Could they be saying that the experienced axis of Anderson, Stuart Broad and Cook needs to stand back to allow the new white-ball led broom to sweep through?
Can Root really need the help of Buttler in captaining three all-time greats who remain integral to the side but are maybe a little world-weary, conservative and even cynical compared to the ‘to dare is to do’ brigade? ‘One thing that’s for sure is that this is not a way to push Jimmy out of the team,’ said Root of the elevation of Buttler.
‘We’re not trying to replicate the white-ball side but maybe grab a few things from them because they’ve had huge success and it would be wrong not to tap into that.’
The battle between Virat Kohli (left) and Jimmy Anderson might hold the key to the Test
As for Rashid, whatever the objections to picking a man who is at loggerheads with Yorkshire, in particular coach Andrew Gale, more than he is red-ball cricket, all Smith has tried to do is pick the best spinner available.
So did you want Rashid too, Joe? ‘I’ve known Adil from being a very young lad at Yorkshire,’ said Root, neatly evading the question. ‘He’s always been talented but over the last couple of years, with experience, he has grown as a player massively. He’s developed his game in a way that has given him a better understanding of what he’s trying to do and how to work batters out.’
But do you know how to get the best out of Rashid? ‘I’ve got a great idea of how to captain him,’ smiled the England captain. ‘I have seen Adil’s success in white-ball cricket over the last year and I have an opportunity to get the best out of him in this format.’
The first Test looks like being held in front of a small crowd at the Edgbaston fortress
What a first Test is in prospect in front of what still looks likely to be a disappointingly small crowd at England’s Edgbaston fortress.
It is a series India have a better chance of winning under a captain, in Kohli, who cares about Test cricket much more than predecessor MS Dhoni. Yet India have hardly sent out the right signals so far and their arrogance in treating their only red-ball warm-up game against Essex at Chelmsford with such disdain was breathtaking.
They will arrive at Edgbaston on Wednesday undercooked but with Kohli desperate to break the stranglehold Anderson held over him in 2014, dismissing him cheaply four times in just 50 balls.
That battle might hold the key to the outcome of England’s most important series outside the Ashes, with Root’s ability to go big and Rashid’s response to the scrutiny the other pivotal sub-plots.
The highlight of the cricketing summer is finally here. It should be a cracker.