Planning for life after Adil Rashid: England hoping 23-year-old legspinner Matt Parkinson can take the strain
No country has held both white-ball global titles simultaneously - the 20-over and 50-over World Cups - and if England are going to become the first in one year’s time, it is axiomatic that they will need a wicket-taking wrist-spinner, in addition to a containing offspinner like Moeen Ali.
The big question is whether Adil Rashid and his right shoulder will be fit for international purpose by the World T20 finals in Australia. He is only 31, and England’s senior spinner on this T20 tour, but the fizz off the pitch which made him arguably the most important figure in England’s four-year campaign to win the 50-over World Cup - well, it isn’t there.
Rashid is still pretty tidy, knowing how to get round the traps 10 years after his England debut, but that fizz has gone missing. He needed a couple of injections to get through the World Cup, when he did a job, then rested his shoulder until this tour. But the ball is sitting up rather than zipping through, and when the square boundaries are short on both sides of the wicket - as at the Wellington stadium when his four overs cost 40 runs, and again at McLean Park, the fourth venue - this can be a recipe for expensiveness if not disaster.
Rashid is approaching 250 wickets for England in the three formats combined, and has passed 1000 wickets in first-class cricket and the two white-ball formats - and herein may lie the source of the problem. English legspinners being gold-dust, Rashid bowled so much when young that his rotator-cuff now protests. The googly, which places an added strain, has become a rarity; and he fields at short third man or short fine-leg to minimise throwing.
Take one Under-19 Test, between England and India at Taunton, as an example of the work Rashid did before his shoulder was fully developed. He bowled 64.5 overs, and took 10 wickets including Virat Kohli’s, besides scoring a century and 48 at No 6.
England’s succession-planning has already started with the selection of Matt Parkinson, the 23 year-old legspinner from Bolton, for the largely experimental squad on this tour. Parkinson has the great virtue of getting plenty of revolutions on his stock delivery, and bowled two tidy overs for 14 runs and a wicket on his debut in the third T20 of this series. In his T20 career, hitherto for Lancashire, he has taken a wicket every 13 balls; Rashid’s strike-rate, albeit against better batsmen on the whole, is one every 18 balls.
Parkinson propels the highly-revved ball up and above the batsman’s eyeline before dipping and bouncing. The trouble is that other great virtues are not evident - no fielding, and no batting, to speak of. Parkinson misfielded his first ball in international cricket when it was pushed back at him but that can be forgiven, for the joy and relief he must have felt after a taxing season.
In the third T20, before Eoin Morgan decided to protect him after only two overs, Parkinson bowled Tim Seifert - New Zealand’s wicketkeeper who was trying to reverse-sweep - through his legs. “I had a feeling he was going to reverse me that ball so I bowled him a slider and luckily he missed it,” said Parkinson, whose twin brother is also a spinner, but a left-handed one for Leicestershire.
“I'm learning a lot from him (Rashid). Obviously it is fantastic to train and play alongside him, and we've got Jeetan Patel (the Warwickshire and former New Zealand offspinner, and England’s spin-bowling coach) here as well who is fantastic. But you don't just learn off Adil and Jeets, it is the batters as well and the other coaches.”Credit: Getty Images
Parkinson’s summer saw the death of his mother, aged 50, from cancer. “Obviously the summer has been tragic for me and my family, and I like to think that I've used the tragic thing that happened in July to spur me on, and if I hadn't used it in a positive way then I don't think I'd be here playing for England.
“My dad played a bit of club cricket and a couple of games for Lancashire Under-19s. He's a decent club cricketer who bowls googlies - garbage really! I did learn from him. Your parents and your friends get you so far and then it is up to the county to take you on from there.”
Parkinson has yet to specialise in a format: he is also England’s second spinner for the two-Test leg of this tour, as back-up to Jack Leach. “The current aim is to stay in the T20 side and look towards that World Cup, but I've played just one game of international cricket so I'm not going to look too far ahead.”
In the fourth T20 every spinner will have his work cut out because of the short square boundaries at McLean Park. Anything pitched short will attract a cross-batted shot and is liable to go the full distance.
Drop-in pitches are not so much the problem when New Zealand play at their rugby grounds, because their curators long ago sought to find creative solutions for their unique problem, but boundaries of quirky dimensions are. And just after bowlers have got used to bowling fuller at the second and fourth venues of this series, the last match is scheduled for Eden Park in Auckland where it is the straight - not square - boundaries which are short to the point of miniscule.