Watching a player of Joe Root‘s stature ferry drinks out to the middle during the final T20I against India in Bristol certainly didn’t look or feel right.
It was though befitting of the England Test captain’s character and attitude that he just got on with his 12th man duties like an up-and-coming youngster, taking the decision limited-overs skipper Eoin Morgan and stand-in coach Paul Farbrace made to drop him, in place of the bigger-hitting Ben Stokes, on the chin.
On Thursday, the 27-year-old will resume his role in what is a formidable England one-day international batting order for the opening clash of the three-match 50-over series against the men in blue, beginning in Nottingham.
But, make no mistake, after a subdued run of form which saw him register just nine runs in the two 20-over innings he did contest with India and average only 26 in the recent 5-0 ODI whitewash of Australia without any serious contributions, Root’s confidence has been hit.
“He is our best player. He is a fantastic player in all forms of the game,” were the words of the ever-positive Farbrace, when asked about the batsman, a man he had previously deemed virtually undroppable.
Farbrace continued: “In T20 you need players who can manipulate the strike and can keep you in the entire game and that is a skill that Joe has.”
There is no doubt Root – one of the finest batsman England has ever produced – is capable of that and has proven so before. Think back to his game-changing 44-ball 83 against South Africa during the 2016 ICC World T20 in India, helping the Three Lions hunt down 230, which stands as the third-highest chase of all time.
We will likely witness an upturn in Root’s fortunes this series, on flat batting-friendly tracks, but the anticipated fightback should not detract from a wider issue moving forward here.
Root is perhaps a victim of his own technically-astute and classical batting talent, as well as versatility, that up until now has made him a world-class cross-platform batter, particularly in Tests and ODIs.
It is vital runs keep flowing for him in ODIs ahead of next year’s 50-over World Cup on home soil, a tournament in which Morgan’s No.1-ranked men are heavily fancied.
However, since the World T20 two years ago, he has stagnated in the format as the pressures of running the Test side have increased.
He has scored 193 runs at 27.57 (strike rate 104.89) in eight matches since England’s run through to that final defeat against West Indies, while he managed close to 40 in the build-up to the event and throughout the tournament itself.
Add in the fact that, according to The Telegraph, Root has turned out in only 11 T20s in the past three years and played just eight international T20Is in the past two, then that is simply not enough.
Off the back of that, Root was overlooked in this year’s IPL auction again and watched on as international team-mate Jos Buttler became an English trailblazer for the competition.
Root has made no secret of the fact he wants to play more T20 cricket but given England are busy all-year around it is difficult. For instance, the 2019 World Cup is followed by a home Ashes and a full tour of South Africa in 2019/20.
It is a catch-22. New Zealander Kane Williamson, a man billed in the same category as Root when it comes to traditional batting talent, had similar problems proving his worth in the age of big-hitting. Before the last edition of the IPL, he had struggled to score quickly and pace short innings for his country.
But when opportunity knocked – the key factor here – he took it. Williamson may well look at Root with a hint of jealousy that England, one of the big three in international cricket, will forever have a jam-packed schedule the Kiwis could only dream of. But he was able to make his stint in India work due to no other commitments.
A total of 735 runs for Williamson – a high in this year’s installment at 52.50 – followed for finalists Sunrisers Hyderabad and all of a sudden there was proof that a culturally gifted cricketer did not just have to be big and brawny, they could have brains too.
Simply put, Root has not been involved often enough nor at the business end of proceedings, in the pressure-cooker moments where today’s stars are earning their stripes. His 28 T20I outings for England compared to Buttler’s 65 is one such example of contract.
Virat Kohli has obviously benefitted from the IPL given India base their schedule around their marquee stage, whereas Root is restricted.
So, what is the solution? There is no obvious one. Root has always put England first and while that is admirable and is set to always be the case, his sacrifices mean that he has not kept pace with the glitzy world of T20. We can only hope more chances arrive.
Yorkshire have postponed Wednesday’s Vitality Blast fixture with Derbyshire to avoid a clash with England’s World Cup semi-final against Croatia.
The Twenty20 match at Headingley was due to begin at 18:30 local time – 30 minutes before the football – but Yorkshire have announced it has now been rescheduled for July 30.
A statement read: “Following England’s progression to the semi-final of the FIFA World Cup, Yorkshire County Cricket Club believe that it is in the best interests of the spectators to reschedule the fixture.
“The decision has taken into consideration travel advice for the Headingley area on Wednesday night.”
Root was dropped for the final T20 against India in Bristol on Sunday, when the tourists secured a seven-wicket win to wrap up the series. England will get the chance to redress the balance in the one-day internationals, which start at Trent Bridge on Thursday.
Captain Morgan admitted omitting Root for the Twenty20 was “not an easy decision” as fit-again all-rounder Ben Stokes came back into the side.
For the 50-over series, Farbrace will revert to his role as assistant to Trevor Bayliss, who returns to the helm after some time taking in England Lions and county cricket.
And Farbrace believes Root will be determined to make an impact in Nottingham.
Joe Root looks set to be dropped from England's T20 team today to accommodate Ben Stokes' return. T20 has evolved so quickly since 2016 WT20 and - because he's played so little of it - Root hasn't quite evolved with it— Tim (@timwig) July 8, 2018
“Every player goes through a period where you either find it tough or you are left out the side or whatever. We all know that his response will be to work harder, try harder and score more runs – that’s the nature of him,” Farbrace said.
“I’m sure he was bitterly disappointed to be left out because he wants to play every game for England and he wants to show he’s a high-quality player in all forms of the game, so he will be disappointed.
“But we all know Joe very well – he’ll be spurred on by that and he will do all he can to make sure he is ready come Thursday’s game at Trent Bridge. I still think, and I genuinely believe, that if England are to be successful in T20 cricket over the next couple of years leading into the World Cup, Joe Root will play a magnificent and big part in that.
“He is our best player – a fantastic player in all forms of the game. Yes he hasn’t got any runs in the last couple of games and yes that does make you vulnerable in any side. Runs are your currency – that’s what you’re selected on.
“Joe has the ability to hit boundaries. He might not have the raw power of a Stokes or a (Jonny) Bairstow, but strong cricket shots, even in 20-over cricket will get you your reward.”
LEARN FROM MORGAN
Farbrace believes Root can learn from Morgan – and vice versa.
“There are signs of Joe really getting to grips with the Test match team as a captain, and I think any experience like he has had over the past few days will definitely help him”, Farbrace said.
“Players learn from players and I am sure he’ll be watching the way Morgs talks to the team, the way he goes about things, the way that he makes the decisions that he makes.
“I’m sure those two will have lots of conversations about the role of being England cricket captain whether it’s with red or white ball. I think he’ll definitely learn from that.”