Test captain hasn’t given up hope of T20 World Cup involvement after starring role in ODI
Joe Root hopes England’s controversial rest-and-rotation policy can be “put behind us” ahead of the Test series against India and in the Ashes that follows.
While England have selected their strongest available T20I squad for two successive series (in India and against Sri Lanka), they did not have a full-strength Test squad available at any point over the winter.
But Root, England’s Test captain, now anticipates having all of his players available (injuries apart) available for the next 10 Tests, suggesting that such series – and the Ashes in particular – is “what you do it for”.
And with a new cycle of the World Test Championship (WTC) about to start, Root is keen to be involved in the next final rather than watching it on TV, as was the case last week when New Zealand beat India in the inaugural event at the Ageas Bowl.
“We are coming into a period of time now where rest and rotation is put behind us,” Root said. “Hopefully, if everyone is fit, we are going to have our best team available for what is to follow. That’s really exciting and something I’m very much looking forward to.
“We have ten very hard Test matches against two brilliant opposition coming up but it is a great opportunity for us to play some strong cricket and if everyone is fit and available we will have a good team ourselves.
“I’d like to think that, over the next five Test matches, we’ll be trying to play our strongest side or have our strongest squad available for those games. This is, I suppose, what you do it for: to ready yourself for this lead-in and for in particular that Ashes. To make sure everyone’s peaking for that, and these big games.
“Watching the WTC final and not being part of it, it makes you want to be a part of something quite special like that. We have an opportunity now to go a bit further and better than we did the first time out. I’m looking forward to hopefully starting well with a full squad of players to pick from.”
Whether Root is expressing his own aspirations or a new ECB policy is unclear. For while he has maintained the company line over his weakened squads in recent times, there have been moments when his body language has suggested some frustration. It is entirely possible that seeing England play a full-strength T20I side against a modest Sri Lankan opposition, just a couple of weeks after his weakened Test side lost their seven-year unbeaten home record, might have prompted him to express his frustration in a more public way. Either way, the England management can no longer be in any doubt as to his views.
Ultimately, the key to England’s ability to pick their strongest side may lie with the Australian government. The ECB, through Cricket Australia, have requested a dispensation which would allow families to join the team for at least some of the tour. It’s understood the ECB are prepared to charter a flight to facilitate this.
But if that dispensation is not granted, it seems probable that the all-format players – and in particularly those involved in the T20 World Cup and the Ashes – will continue to be rotated to ensure they are not away from their families for too long at a single stretch.
“I really hope the families will be in Australia,” Root said. “It’s a really important aspect of that tour. With the amount of cricket that we’ve got it’s going to be really important that that is the case.
“I can’t give you an answer. It’s not something I know as fact or not as yet, but I’m very hopeful that will be the case.”
Root also expressed his continuing ambition to win a recall to England T20I squad ahead of the World Cup.
“Every player wants to be part of that squad,” Root said. “It looks like a brilliant team to be a part of. As someone that’s currently outside of it, they’re playing some wonderful cricket. It looks as strong as it ever has done in the format. And whoever is in that final squad going into that World Cup will be full of confidence because they know that they deserve to be there.”
But while the focus has been – understandably – on Root’s batting, it could yet be his bowling that wins him a recall. He has been, in effect, England’s first-choice Test spinner to date this summer, and claimed a maiden five-wicket haul in India over the winter. Like Liam Livingstone, he can bowl both off-spin and leg-spin and, had it not been for Carlos Brathwaite’s late intervention, might well have been Player of the Match in the last World T20 final.
“Of course, I’d love to be involved,” Root continued. “All I can do is score runs and try and put a case forward in the games that I have available. That’s all I’m really concerned about: trying to perform as well as I can, whatever the format. If I do that well enough then you never know, I might have a chance at the end of it.
“It is not perfect, the schedule. We play so much more cricket than anyone else and there are compromises that have to be made at times. I am desperate to play for England across all the formats as much as I can.”
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo