Sports, Cricket

I’ll come back ready and excited to dive into Test cricket–Joe Root, ahead of Ashes

Published : 17 May 2023 09:09 PM

Joe Root has played 319 times for England across formats, has captained his country 64 times, and has scored 18,048 runs in an international career spanning just over a decade.

But since he arrived in India in late March, he has found himself surplus to requirements. Root spent the first ten games of IPL 2023 on Rajasthan Royals' bench, a pink towel draped around his neck as he fulfilled his duties as the world's most overqualified drinks waiter.

It came as no surprise. Only four overseas players are permitted in each XI. Jos Buttler and Shimron Hetmyer are automatic starters, and Royals opted to use their other spots on two of Jason Holder, Adam Zampa and Trent Boult. Yet it still jarred to see one of the leading batters of his generation acting as 12th man.

In the past week, Root has been tasked with bolstering a hit-and-miss middle order - but even so, his opportunities have been limited. In his first two games, he bowled two tight overs and didn't face a ball as Royals' top order dominated; in his third, he made 10 off 15 balls from No. 4 as they collapsed to the third lowest total in IPL history.

Back home, the question being asked more than any other is whether Root should be in India at all. The first Ashes Test is a month away, and he has not played a red-ball game since February. Root was sold at base price - Rs 1 crore (US$ 121,600 approximately) - so the financial aspect of his participation is almost incidental.

"It's quite easy, really," Root said in Jaipur, when asked how he would respond to suggestions that he ought to be playing county cricket. "I'll start by saying I love playing for Yorkshire, and I love the County Championship. It's the bedrock of our game back in the UK and it's so influential in developing players.

"But for where I am within my game and my development, having an experience like this for the first time at 32 years old, I feel that's going to benefit me more in the long run than playing four Championship games where I might not learn too much about myself. Look at the fixtures: one of them's already been rained out, one was a rain-affected game and ended up a draw.

"If you want to, you can look back at anything and say, 'Well, if you didn't do that then, you didn't do that, then you might've done better here,'" Root said. "It doesn't make any difference. It's about how you turn up and you perform when those big games come around. That's what you should be judged on.

" I think that I'll come back ready and excited to dive back into Test cricket and ready for what's going to be an amazing summer of Ashes cricket.

It wasn't something that I just did - I thought there was a real plus side to it, and that if I treated the experience in the right way then I would come back in a really good place, with more knowledge and in a better position."