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Rashid shelves first-class cricket for white-ball deal

Adil Rashid gets a pat on the back from his captain Getty Images

Adil Rashid has put his first-class career on hold for at least a year after agreeing a white-ball only contract with Yorkshire for the 2018 season.

Rashid, the legspinner, is a key part of England's one-day and T20 sides and believes it is those formats of the games he would be best to focus on domestically and internationally. He has played 10 Tests, all overseas, taking 38 wickets at 42.78, but became very expensive in the latter part of the series against India in late 2016.

"At this moment in time in my career, I just feel that white-ball cricket is where I am best, enjoying it most and where I feel I can develop and offer a lot more," he said. "It's for this season coming and to see how it goes. It's not me saying I'm finished from red ball, it's just me saying that this summer I'm going to concentrate on white ball and see where that takes me."

While Rashid did not enjoy a vintage 2017 Championship season - he claimed only 10 wickets at a cost of 50 apiece - the decision is still a surprise. He remains relatively young (he celebrates his 30th birthday later this week) and, having not been picked-up by IPL or PSL teams, is not suffering from the conflicting demands on his time that inconvenience some cricketers.

Yorkshire have made it clear the decision was very much Rashid's - "The club remain firmly in favour of Rashid continuing to play red-ball cricket for the county," they said in a statement - but say they "respect his desire" and are "in the process" of "renegotiating a contract which reflects his decision to solely play white ball cricket."

"From my point of view it's disappointing," Yorkshire's director of cricket, Martyn Moxon, said. "I think Adil has got the ability to play in all three formats of the game, not only at county level, but also at international level. It is Adil's decision and we have to respect that.

"He contacted me recently and explained that he wanted to focus solely on white-ball cricket and concentrate on becoming the best white-ball cricketer he could possibly be.

"I've said many times that the skills required for the three formats of the game are so different, so it is a challenge for players to play in all three - in international cricket you don't have many players that do. We need our players to be able to play in all three formats predominantly. We really need to get our players skilled up in all three formats. Adil obviously feels he can't achieve that at the moment.

"He's been an important member of our white-ball team over the last number of years and is a potential matchwinner. We're pleased to have him playing white-ball cricket for us and, with his sole focus being on that, you'd expect his skills to improve."

While the England camp are open-minded about the benefits of players specialising, they had not shut the door on a return to Test cricket for Rashid. With Mason Crane enduring a tough Test debut - he claimed 1 for 193 - and Moeen Ali struggling during a horrid Ashes series, the new county season might have presented Rashid with a golden opportunity to stake his claim for a recall. And, with 10 first-class centuries to his name, he offered all-round skills that few of his rivals for the spin-bowling position can match.

Might it be relevant that it was long-time Yorkshire team-mate Joe Root who made the decision for England to look at alternative options? Certainly there have been previous occasions when Yorkshire have expressed some frustration with Rashid, not least at the end of the 2016 season when he cited the illness of a family member for sitting out the County Championship decider at Lord's. Middlesex subsequently won that match to pip Yorkshire to the title with Andrew Gale, then the club captain and now the club coach, tweeting with apparent irritation that he would take "11 lads on the field who will give everything to win."

Rashid also issued an apology to Gale in early 2013 after giving an interview in which he criticised his captain's use of him, claimed "I don't feel I've been treated well" and threatened to leave the club.

Rashid's move will strengthen the belief that the longer formats of the game could struggle to withstand the proliferation of T20 cricket, in particular. With several of West Indies' better players having apparently accepted a future as white-ball specialists and Jos Buttler the latest England player to suggest a Test-less future, Rashid's move might sound more warning bells for lovers of the more traditional formats.

And while Moxon insisted "county setups can't accommodate specialists at this moment in time," it is telling that Liam Plunkett and David Willey - also members of England's limited-overs squads - each played only two Championship games in 2017, though fitness was more a factor in their cases.

"It wasn't any easy decision to make but it's something I felt I had to do," Rashid said. "If I was to go back to playing red ball early in the season, a bit inside me would have said 'I'm just playing because I have to' but I had to make that decision and say 'no, I can't just go through the motions'. If I do just go through the motions, firstly I'd be letting the team down and I'd also be letting myself down because I wouldn't be giving 100%. I've made the decision, this summer, to just concentrate on white ball, something which makes me very happy and gives me the best chance of improving my cricket.

"I'm looking to develop my skills and add something to my game that I've perhaps never had, because I've never had the opportunity to try it. Red ball sometimes might have got in the way of trying certain things in the past, especially switching between the two, but this gives me the opportunity to explore and to see what I can do and hopefully become a better player.

"England and Trevor Bayliss were happy with the decision I made and are backing me fully. I'll use as much of the time I have to work on my white-ball cricket and I'll just see where that takes me and what lies ahead.

"I'm really excited for this summer with Yorkshire and what we can potentially go on to achieve. I'm also excited about this new approach to my game, whether it goes well or doesn't, that's beside the point because it's what makes me happy."