Adil Rashid caused a shock by announcing he would ditch first-class for at least a season to focus on his white-ball game. He is a key part of England’s one-day and T20 sides – in 2019 there is the World Cup and then a World T20 in 2020, the same year the new English domestic tournament is launched – and there has already been talk that he won’t be the last to follow this route. Who might be next?
In a sense, Rashid is following in Morgan’s footsteps, even if the England captain has never officially ended his first-class career. There is, in fact, a window where he could play Championship cricket for Middlesex this season, having not picked up an IPL deal and with England’s next white-ball cricket after New Zealand not until mid-June. However, Morgan has not appeared in a first-class match since 2015. While Rashid’s decision will split opinion, there would be little head-scratching if Morgan ended the debate over his long-form cricket for good.
Like Rashid, Hales has had a taste of Test cricket: 11 matches with the mediocre average of 27.28. He has tried to reinvent his red-ball game by moving into Nottinghamshire’s middle order with limited success. A double-century against Derbyshire last year prompted much excitement but there wasn’t much else besides that, while there are concerns about his playing of the short ball – evident in white-ball cricket at times, but less crucial to his success. Having been overlooked for the IPL he isn’t among the most sought-after names, but it isn’t a huge leap to see him taking a similar view to Rashid to specialise.
Earlier this week, Buttler spoke frankly to Sky Sports about where he saw the game heading and suggested cricket being a single-form sport in 15-20 years. Whether that’s an extreme view or not, Buttler is basically a white-ball specialist already while still lauding the virtues of Test cricket. He has played five Championship in the last two years – while Ben Foakes is now the reserve Test keeper – and won’t be seen much in 2018, either, with an IPL deal, followed by England’s white-ball season then the T20 Blast. Will the prospect of Championship cricket in September float his boat?
The allrounder is another to see the changing nature of the game. He admitted his career was at a “crossroads” ahead of his recent Big Bash stint with Perth Scorchers. “I think over the past couple of years, the way the scheduling is now it’s difficult to play enough four-day cricket to put your name in the frame for Test cricket,” he said. Even with a sustained run of Championship cricket – injury, not just selection, has hindered his chances at Yorkshire – he is unlikely to come into Test contention but as a left-arm seamer and hard-hitting batsman he ticks a lot of white-ball boxes
The way Plunkett was talked up as an answer to England’s fast-medium Ashes woes you would be forgiven for thinking he had been ripping through Championship sides. He actually played two matches in 2017, like Willey partly due to injury, but in the era of England seeing the one-day game as equally, if not more, important than Test cricket he has been ring-fenced in his specialist role. At nearly 33, there would be few who would begrudge Plunkett ensuring he could make the most of the latter part of his career
Can you lose what you don’t have? The situation with Archer is different to the names above, in that it is the current period of limbo he finds himself in that could pose the biggest questions. He is one of the hottest properties in the world game without having tasted international cricket. He has stated, more than once, his desire to play Tests for England but is currently going through a qualification process that runs until 2022 which also rules him out of the next World Cup and World T20. He has time on his side to keep all his options open, but as a fast bowler will not want to waste his prime years.