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Willey: Rashid’s red ball exit could be the first of many

Willey believes it is getting harder for players to excel in all formats.

England all-rounder David Willey believes Adil Rashid could be the first of many top players to turn their backs on red-ball cricket.

Rashid has decided to focus exclusively on limited-overs competitions next season and is renegotiating a deal with Yorkshire to reflect his withdrawal from the first-class game.

The leg-spinner, who earned the last of 10 Test caps in December 2016, has not closed the door on a future return but, at the age of 29 and with lucrative Twenty20 opportunities at an all-time high, few expect it.

Rashid has gone a step further than one-day captain Eoin Morgan, who has not donned his Middlesex whites since 2015 but remains theoretically available to do so, and does not suffer from the fitness problems which constrain short-form specialist Tymal Mills.

As such, his announcement is sure to usher in plenty of soul-searching from those who fear for Test cricket’s status at the pinnacle of the game and hold the Specsavers County Championship as the premier domestic competition.

But Willey, Rashid’s team-mate with club and country, sees it as a natural step and one that others could soon pursue.

“It’s to be expected. It is too much to play everything and that’s cricket now,” he said.

“If you look around now with all the white-ball cricket around the world people can make a career out of that.

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“People make decisions in all different careers as to what they enjoy and what suits them and it wouldn’t surprise me if more guys do it over the next few years with the amount of white-ball cricket that’s available throughout the year.

“Whether more people decide to do it or not is another matter but it’s certainly been discussed.

“It’s just the way the game seems to be going and these Twenty20 competitions are appealing to people not only for the cricket but also financially. At the end of the day we have a short time playing sport – it’s not something we do until we’re 60 years old – and there comes a time when you have to make decisions for yourself and your family.”

As well as money, elite cricketers are increasingly finding themselves funnelled towards specific formats by the relentless international schedule.

England felt compelled to rest Joe Root, Chris Woakes and Moeen Ali for the ongoing T20 triangular series while Australia have effectively had to select parallel squads due to the imminent Test campaign in South Africa.

Willey has a long-held ambition of following in the footsteps of his father Peter, who played 26 Tests for England from 1976-86, but increasingly finds himself pigeon-holed as a white-ball player.

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When he swapped Northamptonshire for Headingley he spoke of his desire to hone his four-day game but has played just six championship fixtures in two years, partially due to his increased role in England’s one-day set-up.

“It’s probably nearly impossible to play Test cricket when you’re playing so much white-ball cricket,” he said.

“Last year we were barely available for any four-day cricket because of the Champions Trophy so it then becomes difficult to play regular red-ball cricket, which you need to be doing if you want to be pushing for Tests,” he said.

“If you’re only playing two or three games a year, you’re probably not making much of a contribution to a championship title and you’re certainly not going to be able to push for Test cricket, so if you are in that position you’re probably thinking ‘what am I playing it for?’”

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