Before the start of the first Test against India in Birmingham, England wicket-keeper batsman Jonny Bairstow has thrown weight behind leg-spinner Adil Rashid whose selection came under the scanner after being picked up by selector Ed Smith. Rashid was picked up in the English squad on the basis of his good performance in the limited-overs format in the recently-concluded series against India. Also Read - IPL 2021: We Played Cross Batted Shots, That's Not The Way to Play Here - David Warner

Bairstow, who is Rashid’s teammate in Yorkshire, refused to be drawn into the controversy but said the leg-spinner must be excited to have got the England call-up for the Test series which starts in Birmingham. Also Read - Michael Vaughan Predicts IPL 2021 Winners, Also Names His Second Favourites

“The biggest honour you can have is to go out and play Test cricket for England. It is an exciting challenge for him (Rashid), as for us all, going from white-ball cricket to red-ball cricket,” said Bairstow during the launch of the Specsavers Test Series. Also Read - Youngsters Preferring IPL Over England Cricket Can Say Goodbye: Michael Vaughan

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Despite quitting red-ball cricket ahead of the 2018 County season, the 30-year old leggie is recalled in England’s 13-man squad for the first Test, starting on August 1. Rashid has not played a first-class game since September 2017.

Earlier, former England captain Michael Vaughan dubbed it “ridiculous” before Rashid hit back. Another former skipper Nasser Hussian felt Rashid’s Test recall sets a dangerous precedent for county cricket. Legendary all-rounder Ian Botham had, however, termed these criticisms unnecessary.

Rashid’s stunning delivery to dismiss India captain Virat Kohli in the ODI series had raised hopes of a comeback into the Test side and Bairstow welcomed the leg-spinner in the Test set up.

He has bowled me with plenty of leg breaks over the years,” said Bairstow, who has been playing with Rashid since his teenage days.

READ: Criticism About Adil Rashid’s Selection For Edgbaston Test ‘Pretty Unnecessary’: Ian Botham

“It is not just that one ball that he will get remembered for but the skills and the balls he bowled, his googlies, the way he has varied his pace, come over the top of the ball, round the side of it. His utilisation of his side spin and top spin was very impressive as well.

“He obviously bowled really, really nicely in the one-dayers and the way the white ball has been coming out of his hand… it is an exciting call-up for him. He is delighted and I am really excited for him,” he said.

Rashid has not played any first-class game since September last but Bairstow feels the leg-spinner has enough maturity to deal with the challenges of adapting to the longer format after a gap.

“I think he has matured a lot. If he is landing his leg-spinner, if he is landing his googly, he just has to do it a few more times other than the 10 overs he has been bowling,” said the 28-year-old Bairstow who has played in 54 Tests since 2012.

“At the same time people are not necessarily (going to) come at him as hard in red-ball cricket as they will in white so the shape he gets on the ball, the line he might bowl, the length he might bowl, might differ as well.”

Bairstow, himself, is excited to don his gloves again for the first match of the Test series at Edgbaston.

“I enjoyed it this week being back at Headingley. The last time I kept before then properly was the last Test match so we have had a little bit of a break and a lay-off, but I don’t see that as too much of an issue,” said the 28-year-old, who had relinquished his wicketkeeping duties to Jos Buttler in ODIs.

“It was good to get a bit of a break because it keeps your mind fresh, your body fresh, and it keeps that excitement and hunger to come back in and want to do well, keep pushing yourself and to keep having an impact on the game.”

Talking about his game, Bairstow said: “I am happy with the way I have been playing. There are differences that are going to change from white-ball to red-ball. With the white ball I have been opening the batting, with the red ball I am bit further down, hopefully batting for a longer time and your roles differ.

“I would like to hope that is something over the last ten years of playing, with the way my game is and evolving, that I have been able to modify those in different scenarios and different conditions against different opposition.

(With PTI Inputs)