More players will follow Rashid – Willey

David Willey has expressed sympathy with his Yorkshire and England team-mate Adil Rashid’s decision to put his first-class career on hold. Willey, who has previously mulled the possibility of becoming a limited-overs specialist, said that cricket’s packed schedule was likely to push more players into making hard choices.

Rashid requested not to play Championship cricket in 2018, something Yorkshire have reluctantly agreed to – though Martyn Moxon, the club’s director of cricket, said they could not afford to have many players opting out of formats. Rashid is 30 and could still change tack but for now has decided to focus on his white-ball skills.

Willey only featured in two Championship matches last year, partly down to injury alongside his England commitments, and has only played six times in first-class cricket since moving from Northamptonshire in 2015. Although he suggested at the time he had ambitions to represent England in Tests – following the path of his father, Peter – he has found the competing demands difficult to balance.

Approaching his 28th birthday and having recently become a father for the first time, Willey has previously described himself as being at a career crossroads, one which had given him “sleepless nights”. He spent part of his winter playing for Perth Scorchers in the Big Bash and has previously put himself up for the IPL auction and the selection process for the Pakistan Super League.

“It’s to be expected,” he said of Rashid’s decision. “It is too much to play everything and that’s cricket now. If you look around now with all the white-ball cricket around the world people can make a career out of that.

“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.”

Earlier this week, Jos Buttler suggested he could see a future in which T20 was the only form of cricket played, while admitting he had effectively shelved his own Test ambitions by taking up opportunities in franchise leagues around the world.

A number of England players could be tempted to follow Rashid’s example. The ECB has put greater focus on the short formats to drive interest, with a new T20 competition slated for 2020, and Eoin Morgan, England’s limited-overs captain, has not played a first-class game since 2015.

Such a split would undoubtedly raise questions about the future of Tests, as well as creating significant problems for the domestic game, with Moxon warning that “county set-ups can’t accommodate specialists” who want to pick and choose their commitments.

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

“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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