ENGLAND TOUR OF WINDIES, 2019
Cricbuzz Staff •
Despite not having a great outing, Root learnt a lot from his maiden BBL outing as per his own admission. © Getty
Joe Root’s desire to play more T20 cricket and develop his game in the shortest format is well-documented yet his international commitments have allowed precious little time for that over the past two years. It is the reason why he went and played in the Big Bash for Sydney Thunder late last year between England’s tours of Sri Lanka and West Indies and the reason why he put himself up for the IPL auction in 2018, albeit without getting a deal. It is an inch he is desperate to scratch.
It was interesting, then, that he was named in England’s squad for the three match T20I series against West Indies which follows the current five-match ODI rubber. The likes of Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Moeen Ali, who was withdrawn from the T20 squad today, have been rested for that series but Root has not. Partly, that is because England’s Test captain is not playing in this year’s IPL, unlike the three players mentioned, but it is also a reminder that Root still wants to crack the shortest format and still wants to play more of it.
“Why did I not want to miss the T20 games? Because I love playing cricket for England, simple as that,” Root said. “And I’ve not had much opportunity to play T20 cricket in the last couple of years. I don’t want to miss out on opportunities to play when I’m fit and I feel I’m in a good place to help the side to win and be part of a squad that has a very exciting couple of years ahead of it.”
The obvious worry is that Root, who will be such a pivotal player in this summer’s World Cup and Ashes series, needs a rest wherever he can get it. This winter may not have been as draining as the last one in Australia and New Zealand, but England need their best batsman fresh and energised for what lies ahead. Management of players is always more of an art than a science, however, and Root is confident that in this case, there is enough downtime ahead for him to refresh mentally and physically even after the T20I series.
“After that three-match [T20I] series we have a good chunk of time at home,” he said. “I’m sure I’ll spend some time with Yorkshire, which will be nice as well. I’m very aware of when those gaps will be in the next year or so. I feel this is a good opportunity to play.”
Despite his lack of T20 gametime of late, and a poor spell with the Thunder which yielded a highest score of just 26, Root’s T20 record remains strong. He also believes his time in Australia was not wasted and that he moved his game on, even if the runs did not come to prove it. “It was a new adventure,” he said. “I’ve not played any franchise cricket before, so it was very eye-opening and I learned a lot about my own game. And when you have your family with you, it does make life a lot easier.
“It’s easy to come away from a tournament not having scored many runs and not saying I got something out of it. But genuinely I feel like there was a big development in that side of my game. More than anything, we’re looking at breaking the score down and how best to approach it. And how best to approach it with who you bat with at any given time. If that can transfer over into 50-over cricket as well, that will be fantastic. And it feels like it has in a way. With those T20s coming up, it will be great to see some of that going into those games.”
Despite the aggression and brutality of modern day white-ball batting, there is still a place for those such as Root and New Zealand’s Kane Williamson who prefer the rapier to the bludgeon. He’s perhaps not as eye-catching as Chris Gayle, but Root’s overall strike rate in 50-over cricket is similar to the West Indian opener’s and his strike rate in T20I cricket is 129, better than South Africa’s Quinton de Kock and West Indies’ Kieron Pollard, two big hitters.
Root is proof that there is, as there always has been in cricket, more than one way to get the job done. “Just because I don’t hit as many sixes as others might do, I still feel I can score as quickly,” Root said. “I can’t hit it over the stands like Chris [Gayle] can consistently unless there is a gale-force wind and I’ve got a top edge off a 95mph bowler. You have to play to your strengths and advantages. You’ve always got to look for ways to get better but ultimately getting the best out of yourself is the main thing.
“I am quite settled in the way that I play. Having that understanding of your own game is important. I don’t hit four or five sixes every time I go out, but I like to feel I can strike at a similar sort of rate if I needed to. It’s an area I’m always trying to get better at. If I can add that to what I’ve got already, I’d like to think you’ll see even more improvement.”