Most people would rather enjoy a wine tasting on a sunny afternoon at Lord’s than be in Bangladesh, but Joe Root is an understandable exception. While his team-mates prepared to embark on their World Twenty20 campaign on the subcontinent, the last man to score a century for England in any format was at HQ, gingerly holding a glass.
Root was pressed into service to promote the England and Wales Cricket Board’s new wine sponsor (Hardys, presumably on the basis that if you cannot beat Australia, drink them) after being ruled out of the tournament with a broken thumb sustained in Antigua 17 days ago.
How much of a loss this is for England was underlined by Root scoring most of his 107 runs after having his thumb fractured in eight places by a short delivery from Ravi Rampaul. Root even went on to bowl, and take a wicket, before discovering how serious the injury was.
Having battled through the pain Root might be expected to take Michael Vaughan’s view on Jonathan Trott’s admission that he left the Ashes tour because he was burnt out, not because he was suffering from depression. The former England captain said Trott’s team-mates would “look at him and think at the toughest of times he did a runner”.
Root, though, was supportive of Trott, but did agree with Vaughan that he would have to earn the right to get back into the England side. “It’s never nice to see someone go through that especially when it’s a team mate. Fingers crossed that he get back into some form and be happy and settled within himself.
“I get on really well with Jonathan – it would be nice to have him back playing, but he has to prove himself like everyone else. There’s a lot of places up for grabs and we are all going to have to score runs and make sure we are putting in performances to earn our place. Hopefully, he can do that and we can have a full strength England side with him in it.”
Root said he hoped to be playing again at the “end of April”. At present, he added: “I can’t play golf or go on the PlayStation or Xbox, which is a bit frustrating. All I am allowed to do is go on the exercise bike.
“I want to get playing as soon as I can but you can’t rush these things. It’s going to just take a bit of time to put [the thumb] back together. It’s a bit of a mess. It’s in the right shape it’s just in 8 pieces. I wasn’t aware of the extent of the damage - as my mum always said “is it broken? Is it bleeding” – It wasn’t bleeding and I didn’t know it was broken so I just carried on batting. I somehow managed to bowl. I couldn’t grip the ball as I normally do but I managed not to bowl any double-bouncers. The adrenaline at the time helped me through as well as the painkillers.”
Root’s injury came at a very bad time. Not only is he missing the World Twenty20 he had finally regained form after a difficult Ashes tour. “I felt in a good place and had just hit some nice form when I got injured, but you just have to take the rough with the smooth.
“I learnt more from the second tour. Everything felt like it was going smoothly and then we crashed back down to earth in Australia, it’s all part of the game. So to experience everything I have at such a young age is going to stand me in good stead going forward.
I have pretty much batted everywhere and been and out of the side and I can learn from that for the future.”
Root has probably batted in too many different positions in the order for his own good, breaking into the team at 3, becoming an opener, then moving into the middle order. He admits the inconsistency is not ideal, but does not blame his loss of form on it.
“I just love playing for England, whether it’s opening or middle order. It would be nice to have some settled position but it’s not a massive worry for me, I just want to keep representing my country. Wherever you bat you have to play the situation and recently I haven’t done that in Test cricket. I need to put that right. I’ll Start the season with Yorkshire and see where we get to. The main thing is scoring some runs and putting my name in the hat for selection.”
And maybe some wickets too. Root’s off-spin has the potential to turn a selection choice in his favour in the right conditions. “I want to be an all-rounder going forward if possible. I have a lot of work to do though, I am not mad enough to think I am the finished article.”
As for the tournament he is missing Root is optimistic England can surprise a few people despite their wretched build-up. “Hopefully we can put a couple of good performances together. The great thing about T20 is that it only takes one performance. One piece of individual brilliance can win a game and that can change the whole way you approach a tournament. If we can get on a roll you never know.”