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While the jury is still out on leg spinner Adil Rashid’s selection in the England squad for the first Test against India starting on Thursday at Edgbaston, experienced campaigner and former England skipper Alastair Cook feels that the whole furore over the Yorkshireman’s inclusion has shifted the focus from how good a bowler he has been for England recently.

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“In one sense, I feel a little bit sorry for Adil – all the political side of the selection, rather than looking at him,” said Cook ahead of the series opener.

Rashid, who last year made himself unavailable from four-day cricket with Yorkshire, has been the focus of much discussion concerning his skills as a legspinner. He has enjoyed a successful English summer with 20 wickets at an average of 23.95 in England’s ODI series wins over Australia and India, and most recently Virat Kohli struggled to pick him. There is also the fact that Rashid took 23 wickets during the series loss in India in 2016-17, which was 13 more than any of his England team-mates managed.

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“He’s gone away and worked really hard on his one-day skills and has been bowling brilliantly in the last two series, said Cook, adding, “He’s been selected to play for England, which is a huge honour, and all this other stuff has overtaken it.”

While many experts welcomed Rashid’s inclusion, a few had voiced their opinion against the decision. Former England opener Michael Vaughan had criticised the selection of Rashid as ‘ridiculous’ on the grounds that Rashid had expressed reluctance to play red-ball cricket.

To which Rashid retorted:  “There will be people out there who are not happy. There will be haters, like the pundits who are saying it is a disgrace. That is not my fault”.

However, Cook termed the decision a bold one by the selectors. “’Obviously, Ed (Smith) said you need to be playing red-ball cricket [to be selected in future] – and I think that’s right. But sometimes in exceptional circumstances, selection goes a different way than you would like – and obviously Ed and the selectors have made a brave call,” he added.