Yorkshire's legspinner Adil Rashid has been called into England's ICC World Twenty20 squad as a replacement for Andrew Flintoff, after the England management conceded that Flintoff would not be fit following his recent bout of knee surgery.
Flintoff, 31, sustained a tear to the meniscus in his right knee while playing for Chennai Super Kings in the recent Indian Premier League. Though he was named in England's squad for the Twenty20 tournament that gets underway against Holland at Lord's on June 5, the likelihood of him recovering in time was always slim.
"Andrew is making excellent progress and there is no swelling or pain now in the knee," said England's chief medical officer, Nick Peirce. "He has been putting in some extremely hard training with Lancashire and should start running and practicing this week. After discussions with his surgeon we have decided that he should continue the remainder of his rehabilitation with physio Dave Roberts, who has overseen his previous rehabilitations."
Having missed all of this season's Tests and ODIs against West Indies, Flintoff will now aim to regain his fitness ahead of the Ashes opener at Cardiff on July 8. The intention is for him to begin his comeback in Lancashire's County Championship fixture against Hampshire at Liverpool on June 17.
The ECB confirmed they had approached the World Twenty20 technical committee for permission to add Rashid to the squad that was originally named on May 1.
"We had to name Andrew in the 15 because we hoped he would be fit," said England's national selector, Geoff Miller. "But in reality the timescale was always optimistic. We have now obtained permission from ICC to name Yorkshire's Adil Rashid as a replacement. There is a lot of cricket still to play this year and it is important Andrew is fully fit for it."
Rashid, who made his first appearance in a senior England squad during the winter tours of India and West Indies, has been drafted in as an extra spinner to support Graeme Swann even though he has been omitted from Yorkshire's first two Twenty20 Cup matches. He was preferred ahead of his seam-bowling team-mate Tim Bresnan, as well as the Nottinghamshire allrounder, Samit Patel, who was controversially overlooked for the original squad because of his failure to meet the team's fitness standards.
"It is an exciting opportunity for Rashid, who was in the original 30 we named in early April," said Miller. "He has impressed the England management after being a part of the Test tour to India and the subsequent Caribbean tour and deserves his chance."
For Rashid, 21, the call-up is another big step in his rapid rise to prominence in English cricket. In addition to his legspin, he is also a genuine batting prospect with two first-class hundreds to his name. Last week, he told Cricinfo that his primary goal this summer had been to get involved in England's Ashes set-up, and that his ultimate ambition is to play Test cricket.
The shortest format can be a cruel game to bowlers, Rashid conceded. "When you're coming on for two overs then coming off again, it is difficult to get the pace and rhythm right," he told Cricinfo. "But Twenty20 does teach you where to bowl, how to bowl and when to bowl, and if a batter gets after you, what to bowl.
"You've got to be looked after," said Rashid. "If you get hit for a six and a four, the captain must accept that a legspinner is also a 'risk' spinner. He goes for runs but he's there to take wickets as well. It shouldn't be a bad thing if he gets hit for a six or a four, he shouldn't be taken off in the next over."