Adil Rashid might have been a good Test bowler. We never really found out for sure, and now we never will.
Rashid’s decision at 29 to sign a white-ball-only Yorkshire contract for next season doesn’t formally end his Test career, of course; England’s decision to start last summer with Liam Dawson in the side ahead of him did that.
It was one thing for Rashid to find himself behind Moeen Ali, but Dawson’s selection seemed to be a message from the selectors, and a blunt one.
Finding himself behind a second and almost sarcastically bad batting all-rounder must have been tough to swallow for England’s best legspinner in decades.
The, ahem, spin at the time was that Dawson was there to send a message to Moeen, to free him from the pressure of being the number-one spinner.
It was not quite the psychological masterstroke a self-satisfied England brains trust seemed to think, but the results were clear enough.
Dawson failed, obviously, but a rejuvenated and carefree Moeen was integral to a fine series win over South Africa.
Moeen, it seems, got the message loud and clear, and so too now has Rashid, Mason Crane’s absurd Ashes call-up and the subsequent Khawaja 37ing of his 1-193 in Sydney only amplifying the volume.
But the reaction to this understandable and eminently sensible decision from Rashid has been at best mixed.
The sadness and sense of a Test bowler lost is understandable, even if there has now been a year to come to terms with that reality.
The anger, particularly from Yorkshire supporters, less so.
What’s he supposed to do?
With England going to almost ludicrous lengths to avoid picking him in Tests, why should Rashid not focus entirely on what obviously matters most now?
The 2019 World Cup will provide the definitive answer one way or another, and England’s chances surely aren’t harmed by having such a key member of their team fully focused on a task the ECB have made pretty plain currently sits atop their priority lousy.
There is an openness and honesty to his decision that should benefit Yorkshire as much as Rashid. They have one of the world’s finest white-ball bowlers at their disposal, and with his focus now razor-sharp. Not to be sniffed at.
And for all the lamentations about Rashid’s contract being another nail in the coffin for tradition, this may be a county cricket first but merely formalises the existing reality elsewhere.
The man who will lead England into that World Cup next year hasn’t played a first-class game since 2015. England’s one-day wicketkeeper has played only a handful in that time.
Both Eoin Morgan and Jos Buttler have had a taste of Test cricket but are now focused on the white ball. No different, then, to Rashid.
Others, through age and injuries and the sheer practicalities of the time available may follow suit, whether as formally as Rashid or not.
Liam Plunkett, Mark Wood and David Willey could all feature at the World Cup; focusing solely on white-ball cricket only increases their chances. Look at what any of those three risks by leaving the red ball behind versus the potential rewards and it’s easy to see them going Full Rashid.
Plunkett and Willey – who has already admitted his career is at a crossroads – won’t be getting a Test call-up anytime soon, while Wood’s injury-plagued career doesn’t suggest a lengthy extension of his short and currently underwhelming Test career.
While Rashid’s five-day exile is harder to understand, he has not always helped himself.
Pulling out of an Ashes Test squad with a minor injury marked his card with some, as did excusing himself from Yorkshire’s 2016 Championship title decider at Lord’s.
But if Rashid’s own commitment to red-ball cricket can be called into doubt, it’s hardly at odds with the signals he’s had from elsewhere.
Rashid is a 29-year-old legspinning all-rounder – words guaranteed to set any T20 recruitment team’s ears twitching – who has been told clearly and repeatedly that his Test chance has been and gone, who has a very winnable home World Cup less than 18 months away. It all makes sense.
The surprise is not that Rashid has accepted a white-ball-only future; the surprise will be if none of his potential World Cup team-mates follow suit.