Good news for leg-break bowlers

ADIL RASHID, aged 18, makes his debut and bowls leg-breaks so successfully that he finishes with six for 68 and wins a second game in a row for Yorkshire, writes TED CORBETT.

July 24 — Now that I manage to send Ms King back to her proper place among the facts and figures, I want to ask you a question. Do you remember Robin Marlar? Of course you do. Robin writes in Sportstar long before the birth of this column — a gentle contribution compared with his barrages — but now he is president of MCC, another peak in the career that begins at Harrow, continues with Cambridge University and Sussex and in the opinion of wise men ought to end with a Test career instead of sporting journalism and a long spell as a head hunter. Another off-spinner by the name of Jim Laker gets in the way. Robin, an old-fashioned man — he still reads Sportstar so I must be careful — says a few rash words about girls playing for a boys' team. But suppose, asks his interrogator, the girl takes a wicket with a ball at 80 miles an hour. "I'll ask if she has a sex change operation," says the intrepid president. Not too surprisingly this off-the-cuff remark causes a furore and Robin has to explain he worries girls may get hurt playing against the opposite sex. I will give a considerable fortune to be a spy in his kitchen when his wife Gill — a lady with views as robust as those of Mrs. Thatcher or Indira Gandhi — reads what he says.

July 25 — Bob Simpson, Aussie coach now Sportstar columnist, is a man who loves to be precise so I feel slightly giddy when I see his column which refers to Fred Trueman bowling 400 overs a season. Just to give a couple of instances, Fred — another man who insists on precision when it comes to statistics, particularly his own — bowls 996 overs in 1955, 1077 in 1959, 1180 in 1961 and, a year before he retires in 1968, 515 in 29 matches. By the way there has been a lot of talk recently about Ian Bell losing his Test place after making a century. That is the first time a century maker since Jack Robertson of Middlesex steps down for Cyril Washbrook, the regular opener, in 1949 after making a hundred against New Zealand. But of course it does not happen and Bell goes on to make a second century at Old Trafford. So, consider the injustice of what happens to Fred in 1954 when he takes 153 wickets at 16.03 and is left out of the tour party for Australia. That hurts him right to the end of his days, particularly as he feels that Len Hutton, the England captain, does not give him the support he deserves.

July 26 — Yorkshiremen have a reputation for being racists; certainly not true of all of them as we will see. They also have a history of a profound dislike of leg-break bowlers. There is only one regular wrist spinner in their history, Edric Leadbeater who plays 81 matches from 1949 to 1956 and finishes with 289 wickets at 27.49. The impression I get at the time, living in the county, is that the committee cannot wait to get rid of the guy — and they never give him a county cap, which is the Yorkshire form of contract in those Iron Age days — even though England take him on tour to India and Ceylon in 1951-52. When Johnny Wardle, about the best slow left-arm bowler England produce since the Second World War, returns from South Africa where he takes a bunch of wickets with wrist spin, all he gets is: "You can't bowl that funny stuff here. It's not businesslike." This prejudice exists right to this day which brings me to the point of this story. This week-end Adil Rashid, aged 18, makes his debut and bowls leg breaks so successfully that he finishes with six for 68 and wins a second game in a row for the county. "There has been a change of attitude," says Yorkshire's young chief executive Stewart Regan. "The issue of racism is now history." Rashid's success is pretty good news for leg-break bowlers too. Rashid comes from Bradford, the epicentre of the sub-continent removed to England, he is "the best spin prospect in the country" according to one coach and he bowls 27 overs without a break except for lunch and tea to collect the best Yorkshire debut figures for five years. Best of all, for this lad who makes three successive centuries for Yorkshire's lesser teams, the crowd get right behind him. Now that is a change.

July 27 — Lancashire organise a party for the media folk, including a whole bunch from Pakistan, but sad to see there is a East is East and West is West feel about the get-together; we must all try harder.

July 28 — Why does Steve Harmison leave the field after only one over on the second day of the Test? The Press Box is unanimous — it's another injury scare story and we start counting once again the numbers in doubt for Australia. The television commentators of Sky and Channel Five are simultaneously in agreement too — it's because he feels embarrassed at his first ball wide. "He'll be reassessed in the morning," is the ECB verdict. And when Harmison has a fitness test Harmy is clear to bowl. One-nil to television.

July 29 — The Bat and Ball at Hambledon in Hampshire is the most famous cricket pub in the world and it has a problem. Many enthusiasts regard the old pub as "the cradle of cricket." Not for the first time the owners propose changes so now the Hambledon club want to buy the pub and maintain it so that it reflects its glory days in the late 18th century when the All England Club are its guests and go away defeated 29 times in 51 matches. Worth saving, I say.

July 30 — The major argument against ICC's move to Dubai is the lack of a cricket community around their offices. No chance to lean out of the window and see a friendly face, no one to give an off-the-cuff opinion about a tricky debate, no other people from the game save those within the organisation. But Dubai is the place for the rich and famous to be and sooner or later it was bound to attract more cricket folk.

So I am happy to see that Kevin Pietersen and his bride-to-be the singer Jessica Taylor — it is stitched on now he has her name tattooed on his arm — are buying a home in that city as a wedding present to themselves. ICC will have someone to consult whenever they have a query about either the proper regulation of the lbw law or how to start a successful pop group.