England made a few era-defining changes to their cricket set up as they pursued World Cup success with a single-minded obsession.
Bringing in fearless batsmen and going on the attack from the first ball to the 300th changed the way one-day-international cricket was played over the last four years and brought the first 50-over world glory to the team.
But good as England became in white-ball cricket, their Test ambitions took a back seat, to an extent. Ever since Andrew Strauss retired in 2012, Alastair Cook struggled to find a single long-term partner for six years until his own retirement; Haseeb Hameed being one promising option who lost his way after injury and a loss of form.
Test caps were handed out like pamphlets over the last five years and disproportionate burden was placed on the ageing shoulders of James Anderson and Stuart Broad; there are still no long-term replacements for the two with the rise of Jofra Archer coming at a fortuitous time that has covered up a gaping hole in England’s Test plans.
But England, and more specifically national selector Ed Smith, did get one aspect of team selection spot on – identifying white-ball talent that can flourish in red-ball cricket.
Paul Farbrace saying on TMS that Jason Roy should open for England in the Ashes. Got to be the odds on option now.....— Paul Newman 🌈 (@Paul_NewmanDM) June 8, 2019
Jos Buttler was handed a Test recall last year following a fine IPL stint with Rajasthan Royals. His counter-attacking batting, along that of the astute Sam Curran, was a deciding factor in England’s 4-1 Test series win over India in 2018.
Smith stuck his neck out and saw something in Buttler that could work in Test cricket.
“It is the whole package with Jos. It is what he is capable of, what the opposition know he is capable of and what he brings to the side beyond merely batsmanship,” Smith had said.
Brilliant as that move was, Buttler had at least played Test cricket before and it was a matter of bringing him back at the right time, like India have done with the recall of Rohit Sharma.
The Test selection of ODI megastar Jason Roy is an even more brave call. And it is one that can bring greater success.
When you get once-in-a-generation top-order batsmen like David Warner, Virender Sehwag and Roy, having them on the frontline of Test cricket can be a masterstroke.
Whether or not Roy has a good first-class record is immaterial; the form that he is in and the manner in which he ripped world-class bowlers apart during the World Cup show he is in a headspace where there is just no fear.
In the World Cup semi-final against Australia, England were chasing a tricky target of 224. Australia had their tail up and it could have all gone south quickly for England if they lost a few early wickets.
With the leading wicket-taker of the tournament – Mitchell Starc – steaming in, Roy hit back with such ferocity, the defending champions stopped in their tracks. Starc went for 50 runs in his first five overs and it was game, set and match.
Take that fearless mentality and put it into the Ashes, and you get the possibility of a hundred in a session. It is a rare quality to have – fearless batting against the new ball with decent technique.
If Roy does end up opening the batting, as he should, Australian quicks won’t be able to dictate terms. Especially if he goes after Starc early and it comes off.
Roy is definitely no Strauss or Cook and he should not be expected to graft either, because there are others in the line-up who can do that. Allowing Roy to bat, and even fail, they way he has in ODI cricket should be the main task of Joe Root and England.
Because if he gets going, Roy can set a Test up in one session.
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