Ed Smith, the England national selector, has defended the selection of Adil Rashid for next week's first Test against India at Edgbaston, in spite of his unavailability for Yorkshire in red-ball cricket, saying that the decision was taken with the full approval of both his fellow selectors and England's Test captain Joe Root, with Yorkshire kept informed at every step of the process.
Smith took over from James Whitaker as the head of England's selection panel in May, and was not therefore privy to the decisions that led to Rashid's withdrawal from red-ball cricket, in the wake of his omission from last year's Ashes. His first Test selection, for the Pakistan series in May, had also featured a notable recall on the strength of a player's white-ball form, when Jos Buttler was successfully reintroduced to the side after starring in the IPL.
"I believe strongly in the county game's value," Smith told reporters at The Oval. "In no way is there any sense that I would do anything to damage county cricket. However, in these circumstances where the context pre-dated my involvement as England selector, the panel unanimously felt that the right selection was Adil Rashid in the squad."
Smith revealed that he had sounded Rashid out about a Test recall prior to the ODI series against India. It was, he added, "a general chat about whether it was in his heart to play Test cricket for England again, what his aspirations were. At no stage did I give him any assurances about selection, even if he was available."
One thing that did not change, however, was that Rashid opted not to make himself available for Yorkshire's Roses match at Old Trafford last week. Yorkshire chose to play on-loan legspinner Josh Poysden instead, and club officials were outspoken in their annoyance in the wake of a call-up that will now limit Rashid's involvement in their Vitality Blast campaign.
"We are pretty disappointed with both the ECB's and Adil's decision," Martyn Moxon, Yorkshire's Director of Cricket, said, while Mark Arthur, the chief executive, added: "I hope that England know what they're doing to Adil, and the county game."
Smith, however, was unrepentant for picking a player whom he believes will help England to win a high-profile Test series. "I'm not party to the relationship between Adil and Yorkshire," he said. "I am very sympathetic to Yorkshire's position in terms of their planning. I've spoken with Martyn Moxon all the way through so it's been no surprise to Yorkshire, they have been kept informed every step of the way.
"I'm aware it will prompt discussion, but moving forward it's been made clear to Adil that if he wishes to be eligible for selection in the 2019 summer, he must have a contract to play red-ball cricket.
"I am tasked to put the best available squad together to give to the captain and the coach to pick the XI on the day. That's the extent of my job. Given the circumstances, I feel very comfortable that, after a unanimous decision, we have picked Adil Rashid in the squad."
That unanimity, Smith reiterated, included the blessing of Root, whom he said he "did more than consult".
"The decision was a unanimous one, the decision makers being myself, James Taylor and coach Trevor Bayliss, and also round that table was Joe Root," Smith said.
"The number one question was 'Joe, what do you need?'. I know Joe wishes to give Adil and Moeen [Ali] the best environment to thrive in the Test team, as they thrive in the one-day side. When it came to the final decision, I asked all four if it was the right thing to do and the answer was 'yes' from all four."
"The decision involved quite a lot of context," he added. "We are fully aware of the summer we are having and the likelihood or possibility that the pitches are going to turn. Secondly, in the event of needing two spinners, how would we get people into the side who turn the ball in different directions?
"It would be quite eccentric to play two offspinners and Joe Root. In that context as part of that decision, obviously Adil's form in white-ball cricket, his confidence, his touch, the fact that he has evolved so much as a bowler and is in the form of his life, and never felt more at home in an England one-day or T20 jersey."