Paul Farbrace, England’s interim coach, has backed Joe Root to bounce back strongly after being dropped for the series-deciding T20I against India at Bristol on Sunday, but reiterated that “runs are the currency” by which all of England’s batsmen need to be judged in the current clamour for white-ball berths.
Despite being acknowledged as England’s finest multi-format batsman, Root found himself under pressure following scores of 35, 0 and 9 in his three previous T20 innings against Australia and India. He made way for the return of Ben Stokes in Bristol after Alex Hales had made his own place in the side secure with a match-winning half-century at Cardiff on Friday.
Root’s omission would have seem unthinkable two years ago, when he was the glue in the England T20 line-up that came so close to victory in the World T20 in India, and prior to the series Farbrace insisted Root was a fixture in the side. However, Farbrace – who has been standing in for the head coach, Trevor Bayliss, during the T20I series – said that Root remained a shoo-in to play in the first ODI against India at Trent Bridge on Thursday.
“Every player goes through a period where you either find it tough or you’re left out the side,” said Farbrace. “We all know that [Joe’s] response will be to work harder, try harder and score more runs – that’s the nature of him.
“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, but we all know Joe very well – he’ll be spurred on by that and he’ll do all he can to make sure he’s ready come Thursday’s game at Trent Bridge.”
Root’s role in T20 cricket has come under inadvertent scrutiny in recent months, partly as a consequence of his huge importance to England’s fortunes in the longer formats. In the aftermath of a gruelling Ashes campaign, he was rested during England’s T20 tri-series in Australia and New Zealand in February, and also missed out on an IPL deal after being overlooked in this year’s auction.
And, now in the aftermath of a T20 series decider when even a target of 200 was shown to be some 20-30 runs short, Root’s value – as a man who can keep the strike rotating and soak up the pressure moments of an innings – has been undermined by the sheer muscularity required to put a defendable total on the board, at least on the sort of flat deck that was served up at Bristol.
“It is important in low-scoring games on tough wickets, you need people who can manipulate the strike, who can play spin bowling well, and can keep you in tight games,” said Farbrace. “That’s a skill that Joe has – he has the ability to hit boundaries. He might not have the raw power of a Stokes or a Bairstow but he has strong cricket shots, even in 20-over cricket, which will get you your reward.
“In the game at Cardiff, a low-scoring game, the idea of him going in when he did [at No.3] was to rotate the strike, knock it around and get you close to winning the game. In the end, he got out playing the sweep shot – which is fine, because that’s a shot that he plays exceptionally well.
“I still think, and I genuinely believe it, 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’s 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. It’s the same for bowlers – it’s about wickets and economy rates in T20 cricket.”
Despite the disappointment of losing the series decider, Farbrace said that England would take confidence from their Cardiff win into next week’s ODI series, which arguably has far more significance for the two teams leading into next year’s World Cup, and which England will begin as the No.1-ranked side in the world.
“It was really important that we showed that we could learn very quickly from the first game and we showed that we are capable of beating India in tough conditions,” said Farbrace. “It will be a brilliant series – they’re a magnificent side, they’ve got a lot of experience, a high level of skill, and you can see that they’re definitely here to get stuck into the challenge.
“That’s the way that you’d expect all of [Virat] Kohli’s teams to play, so we’re going to have to play extremely well to win it.”