Interview: England's Jason Roy talks Cricket World Cup, The Ashes and how fatherhood changed his life

The explosive opener has matured into a vital cog of England's successful one-day setup and is tipped for an Ashes berth, but he tells Ed Malyon about how something more important has changed his outlook

Friday 05 April 2019 13:08
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Jason Roy is hoping ODI success can translate to an Ashes opportunity
Jason Roy is hoping ODI success can translate to an Ashes opportunity

2019 is a big year for Jason Roy. In fact, it might already have been the best year of his life.

At 28, Roy is entering the prime of his career in a season where England's white-ball team - of which he is an integral part - are hosts and favourites for the Cricket World Cup. Following that is a Test series against Australia, and Roy's name continues to be mentioned in conversations about a dream Ashes call-up, most recently by a hero of the 2005 team, Steve Harmison.

"During the 2005 Ashes, my old mate KP [Kevin Pietersen] got selected off the back of a fantastic one-day series against South Africa," Harmison said.

"Then he came and hit Australia hard in the one-day series and got picked for the Ashes. Roy played well in the Caribbean, and if he goes and murders Pakistan [in the one-day series next month] and hammers the World Cup, all of a sudden, he’s right in contention to open the batting for England in the Ashes."

It isn't the first time that Pietersen has been mentioned as a comparison for Roy, with the two South Africa-born batsmen both explosive and fearless in style. Pietersen has been something of a mentor to Roy, now a friend, since sharing a dressing room at Surrey and Roy once sported the same bleach-blond streak in his hair to match that no-ground-is-big-enough attitude to wielding the blade.

Pietersen and Roy played together at Surrey and have long been compared in style

Roy has matured though. From tearaway days as a youngster to a married man - having wed long-term partner Eloise Moore in 2017 - and now with a week-old child that has "flipped his world upside down" in the best possible way. That is why 2019 might already be the best year of the Surrey batsman's life, and a player who has always been family-orientated now has his own daughter to fill the time between innings. It is a life-changing thing, but how has his life changed in the week or so since he became a father?

"Well, it's a lot less sleep!" Roy laughs. He is semi-relaxed and semi-reflective as he speaks glowingly about the nascent days of fatherhood.

"Life changes a little when you get married. I'd been with my partner for eight or nine years and it's nice to wake up the day after the wedding and call her your wife, but a child just flips your world upside down.

"It really is like nothing else, I'm so happy."

The 28-year-old went through the most difficult period of his England career in 2017 when he was dropped for the first time after a run of low scores. It didn't take too long to win his place back and he has been virtually ever-present since, but later that year he would be married and the opener credits that change in his marital status to helping him improve on his game.

"The moment I decided I was going to propose, I realised there are no better things out there. It changes your perspective on things.

"From that point, everything off the field is better and more solid and you find that things on the field get better too because of it.

Jason Roy is in relaxed mood ahead of the 2019 season

"You have more focus. You train harder - now, training hard wasn't ever really a problem for me, but it kind of eliminates distractions, you know?"

As April begins with an unusually cold front sweeping down from the north, the County Championship prepares to start a new season without many of England's most entertaining white-ball stars, who find themselves at the IPL.

Roy isn't among them, taking the conscious decision to miss this year's T20 jamboree in India in order to be there for the birth of his new baby girl and also to focus on getting right for the pinnacle of this summer's cricket - the World Cup.

"This is my first kid so it is more important than any cricket. That was my choice.

"I also didn't want a repeat of 2017 when I burnt myself out before the Champions Trophy."

Roy performed admirably on the tour of the Caribbean this winter

After a stellar 2016 in which he averaged 43 in ODI cricket at a strike rate of 108 - his best England season to date until this year's tour of the West Indies - Roy was a target for teams in nearly every T20 franchise league that seemed to be springing up around the globe.

He would sign for PSL side the Lahore Qalandars, which took up February and March of 2017, before heading to the IPL where he spent April and May with the Gujarat Lions. Unfortunately due to the limit on overseas players, Roy played just three games and eventually felt the emotional and physical strain of so many months on the road.

"I went to the IPL which was an awesome opportunity for me but I spent a lot of time on the bench and training, maybe overtraining, and I was definitely burnt out. That affected my form heading into the Champions Trophy and with a child on the way and the World Cup coming I couldn't risk that this year."

Rory Burns and Jason Roy celebrate Surrey's Championship triumph - now they want Ashes glory

While the World Cup is at the forefront of every England fan's mind, it isn't just Harmison who has noted what Roy's explosive style could bring to the Test team.

After an impressive Test series win in Sri Lanka over the winter showed the depth of England's options at a number of positions, the tour of the Caribbean reminded us that if there is an opportunity for someone to break into the established team then it will likely be atop the order. Roy, undoubtedly, is front of the queue, though thoughts of getting his hands on the urn are being parked until he can make his case in the shorter format, swatting away talk of a Test call-up to instead focus on the only thing he can do to earn that place - score runs.

"My main focus is on the World Cup, looking to play the best cricket possible and hopefully win it.

"That is the best way to push my case, if I score the volume of runs that I want to score then I'll get myself noticed."

Jason Roy was speaking on NatWest CricketForce day. Get in touch with your local club to find out more about their NatWest CricketForce Day. Find your local club here.

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