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September 5, 2009
There is a strong Australian influence on Adil Rashid's progression into international cricket. As with many young legspinners Shane Warne is his role model and, like Warne, Rashid is mentored by Terry Jenner after spending two winters at his spin academy. And the wise words are clearly paying off. Rashid's all-round performance in the opening one-day against Australia, at The Oval, continued an impressive season as he makes further strides towards the fully-fledged England career he has always seemed destined to have.
"I've been to see him [Jenner] twice in Australia to work on my bowling and he has been a big influence on my development," Rashid said. "I spoke to him two weeks ago - he was in England coaching at the time in Yorkshire - just to have a general chat about my performances and where I am at the moment.
"It is a friendship. I grew up with him and talking with him I learn about myself and the game. I talk to him about my development. To bowl leg spin you have got to learn the basics. Alignment and head position is the key for bowling in a consistent area and getting a shape and spin."
It was Rashid's father who first introduced him to the magic of leg spin as a 10-year-old, but he says there is no-one better than Warne for a role model. "We played Hampshire two years ago and I went to the dressing room and had a little chat with him about my bowling and general cricket talk. We were talking about how to set batsmen up, the different types of delivery and field placing."
Rashid is being eased slowly onto the international scene, but soon there may be no holding him back. His first taste came in the World Twenty20 where he impressed with his nerve in tough circumstances and there was talk of a possible Ashes berth. That sort of rapid elevation, though, has not been part of the well mapped plan so instead he played for the England Lions and returned to Yorkshire.
He made runs for the Lions against the Australians at New Road, but his season really took off shortly before the one-day squads were announced. He produced career-best scores in consecutive Championship matches - 117 against Hampshire followed by 157 against Lancashire - and also bagged five-wicket hauls in both those games.
A winter tour to South Africa is virtually nailed on, probably at the expense of Monty Panesar who has regressed as quickly as Rashid has progressed, which means he's only an injury away from a Test debut. Friday night at The Oval was the first chance for an extended viewing of Rashid at the top level and he didn't disappoint. A controlled ten-over spell cost 37 runs and the Australians couldn't attack him as planned. Then with England seemingly out of the match he struck 32 off 23 balls and almost pulled off the run chase.
"It was nice to perform with bat and ball but I have still got a long way to go," he said. "It has increased my confidence bowling to the Australians who are a great team. The more you play the more confidence you get and hopefully I can show that in the next game. I was a bit nervous but I was batting with Luke Wright and he helped me get through it."
However, while his batting almost got England across the line, it is Rashid's bowling that is being keenly followed. There is a feeling around the shires that his batting skills have overtaken those with the ball - he averages 36 and 34 respectively - but Rashid is adamant that bowling is his No. 1 role. Last season he was batting in the top six for Yorkshire, but this summer he has been coming in as low as No. 8.
"I have always enjoyed my batting but my main priority when I came through was my bowling," he said. "As time has gone on my batting has improved and I became part of the Yorkshire team as an allrounder. I have still got a long way to go and I've got to improve a hell of a lot."
Howvever, when Australians come out praising a young English player - and allrounder James Hopes echoed the positive comments of Michael Clarke - then there is plenty to work with. "I was very impressed with his bowling," Hopes said. "After a couple of overs it was always our plan to try and make him go without any wickets and try and take confidence away from him that way. But then he came out and batted very well as well. He's still very young and we'll keep taking note of him. If they keep producing dry wickets then he'll be hard to play, but if we get him on a wicket that doesn't suit, we'll find out about him."
The challenge has been laid down to Rashid, and the expectations are only going to increase, but the early signs are that he has both the skills and temperament to respond.