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Cricket news - World Cup 2019: Adil Rashid's stage to shine

No bowler has taken more wickets than Rashid in ODI cricket post the 2015 World Cup.

Few who were at Scarborough in July 2006 for the third day of Yorkshire's Championship game against Warwickshire will forget what they saw, forget the buzz and the excitement they felt. On his first-team debut, Adil Rashid, an 18 year-old leg-spinner from Bradford, took six for 67 in Warwickshire's second innings. This was a young English leg-spinner looking to the manor born. That doesn't happen every day. Hell, it doesn't happen at all, period.

Thirteen years later and Rashid is arguably the best 50-over wrist-spinner in the world, an integral part of England's team as they attempt to win their first ever global one-day trophy in a home World Cup. He's delivering on the promise of all those years ago, the bowler now that everybody who saw him then thought he would become. But, like many, his journey has not always been straightforward.

That day in 2006, Rashid dismissed Jonathan Trott, Nick Knight and Dougie Brown, three internationals. Anthony McGrath stood at slip and remembers being taken aback by how much spin Rashid was getting. "It was really exciting because we'd not had a leg-spinner for a long time at Yorkshire," McGrath says.

Understandably, the hype surrounding him was fever-pitch. The new Shane Warne, you say? Great. 700 Test wickets by next Wednesday, please Adil. But things rarely run smooth and even less so for teenage leg-spinners still learning their craft.

Rashid did well enough in those first few years and was an England T20 and ODI player by the middle of 2009. But understandably, he was still raw. An England set-up run by Andy Flower and Andrew Strauss had many positive aspects but indulging a sometimes erratic leg-spinner in a team which focused on relentless consistency was not one of them.

You could argue he was picked too soon. You could argue he was discarded too soon. But there's little doubt that Rashid wasn't handled as well as a 20-year-old leg-spinner should have been, in and out of the side, bowled for an over or two here and there. After a 2009 T20 in Centurion, South Africa's coach, Mickey Arthur, called England's treatment of Rashid "criminal" after he bowled one over for 25 and was not seen again.

That tour was the last time Rashid played for England for six years. Graeme Swann was tearing it up and Rashid wasn't missed. Neither was he bowling as well as he, or others, felt he should be and when Swann retired, Rashid wasn't on England's radar. He was frustrated - he had a public spat with Yorkshire in 2013 when he accused the captain of not backing him - and it looked for a time as if his career might simply fizzle out.

To perform at his best, Rashid has always needed to be loved, to feel wanted. It may be insecurity, it may be a lack of confidence. But he needs to feel part of things, feel he has the support of his teammates. Early on, he didn't have that with England and when his game stalled back in county cricket, he didn't feel he had it at Yorkshire either. Now, in this one-day set-up, he does and it's a big part of why he's flourishing. "Backing him up and building that confidence is a very important part of his game," Eoin Morgan tells Cricbuzz.

After a return to form, Rashid took his place in Morgan's new-look side for the home series against New Zealand in the summer of 2015, belated recognition from England's selectors that they needed a wrist-spinner in one-day cricket. Immediately, he showed what he could do, taking four wickets and scoring 69 runs. This was a very different Rashid to the one who first had a taste of international cricket. It was also a very different team environment.

"When I first came back, you sensed it straight away," Rashid tells Cricbuzz. "Different faces, young faces. It was, right lads, we are going to play a different brand of cricket. We are going to be exciting, we are going to take the positive option regardless of whether we might lose games. A new England."

That aggressive approach has suited Rashid. He doesn't enjoy bowling the same ball over and over again. Why let a batsman know what's coming when you can run through your tricks? "Variation is my strength," he admits. "And I'm not going to change." It's what makes Rashid such a great one-day bowler but has held him back in Test cricket where conservative selection and captaincy has limited him to just 19 Tests since his debut in 2015. He arguably should have played far more.

He says there are four deliveries in his armoury: a leg-spinner, a googly, a top-spinner and a slider. Except it's not really just four. Sometimes he will try and spin his leg-spinner big. At others, he might just roll it out. The same with the googly. He's also got a leg-spinner that looks like a googly but isn't. And he will adjust his pace depending on the phase of the game or the pitch. It's not so much a bag of tricks as a superstore full of goodies. No wonder batsmen get confused.

And in Morgan, Rashid has a captain who trusts and believes in him and who has given him a simple job: regardless of situation, hunt wickets. "We feel that's the best role for him," Morgan adds. "He's one of very few bowlers in the world who can come on and make an impact straight away. The last two years, we've used him in different ways, as a death bowler. The attitude remains the same. We bring him on to take wickets."

To play that role requires bravery and in cricketing terms, there are few braver. Rashid has always wanted the ball. Morgan remembers the game at Trent Bridge in that 2015 series. It was the 48th over and the captain brought Rashid on to get a wicket. He went for 30. Some might have shied away from bowling the next one. Not Rashid. "He still wanted to bowl," Morgan says. The next over, he went for just four runs, taking a wicket.

You could never accuse Rashid of a lack of work either. Watch any England training session and he will be bowling. On matchday mornings, he is bowling. Early on at Yorkshire, coaches often had to tell him that he'd done enough. But through hard work has come greater consistency. England players who face him in the nets marvel at how he rarely bowls a bad ball. Rashid himself says he is now far better at the tactical side of the game, knowing when to bowl certain deliveries, how to operate on different pitches.

The work has paid dividends to the tune of an exceptional four years. Rashid is already England's highest wicket-taking spinner in ODI cricket with 130 in 86 games and he has the most ODI scalps of anyone since the last World Cup. He has hardly had a bad series since his return to the squad. At 31, he's probably only just reaching his peak, too.

As it has always been, family remains a central part of Rashid's life. His Dad, Abdul, persuaded him to take up leg-spin when he was seven or eight, bowling at the local park. Elder brothers Amar and Haroon were a good test in their backyard games and still offer advice now. "A lot of credit goes to my brothers and my Dad for pushing me to this stage," he says. He has two children of his own and much of his time away from the game is spent with them.

As he has got older, he admits he has matured, helping his game. His Muslim faith has become an even greater part of his life - he prays five times a day - and he has embraced the role model status for British Asians who have traditionally not engaged with the English professional game. The presence of Rashid and his great friend Moeen Ali in England's team is a reminder that, above all, this country remains a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic one of which we can be proud. There is no "them and us". Only us.

Such is their togetherness, that could be the mantra of this England team. Rashid is at the centre of it, confident and backed by his teammates and captain as he has always wanted to be. This World Cup is the stage he has been destined for. Not that he will approach things any differently to when he was bowling all those years ago in Scarborough. He will give it a rip, try a few things and see what happens.

Because, as Morgan says: "Rash just likes bowling."

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