YORKSHIRE’S Joe Root refuses to decry any England team-mates who opt out of first-class cricket.
Alex Hales and Root’s county club-mate Adil Rashid both caused a stir last month when they signed white-ball only deals with their counties, effectively eliminating themselves from Test consideration for the foreseeable future.
Root, however, insists they have every right to tailor their own career as they navigate a jam-packed schedule.
“I don’t think it would be fair to make an example of those two guys,” said England’s Test captain. “There’s a deeper issue that needs sorting out.”
Root and Rashid will attempt to help wrap up one-day international series victory over New Zealand in the fourth match of five against New Zealand in Dunedin tomorrow while Hales is likely to miss out again at the top of the order.
All three nonetheless share a universal quandary with colleagues and opponents worldwide: how to maximise their potential in an ever-crowded calendar across all three formats.
Leg-spinner Rashid and power-hitting opener Hales have made a pragmatic switch they hope will pay off in time for next year’s World Cup on home soil.
“It’s not the fact they’ve necessarily ended their Test careers or their red-ball careers full stop,” added Root.
“From what I’ve heard from Hales it’s about the next 18 months based around really giving himself the best chance of getting ready for a World Cup.
“To criticise the players is wrong. You’ve got to make it more attractive to go and play red-ball cricket somehow.”
Root’s own concern, meanwhile, is how to keep his Twenty20 game up to speed when opportunities to test himself against the best keep passing him by.
He was persuaded by England coach Trevor Bayliss to miss last month’s tri-series in Australia and New Zealand, having put his heart and soul into a failed Ashes campaign, and then discovered he was surplus to requirements with Indian Premier League franchises after entering the auction for the first time.
“I was disappointed,” he said of the IPL snub. “But the reason I wanted to go out there was to play more Twenty20 cricket – it wasn’t to go and earn as much money as possible.
“The amount of Twenty20 cricket I’m available to play at the moment is minimal, and there’s a World T20 in a couple of years’ time. I thought it would be a great opportunity to get some good experience in a fantastic tournament.”
He rationalises that, despite a Twenty20 international average and strike rate of close to 40 and 130 respectively, he just did not fit the bill this year.
“It was disappointing, but it’s also very understandable,” he said. “Sides have a clear idea of what they want the make-up of their team to look like and they build around that.
“I wasn’t going to fit into any one of those teams ... but there’s not really much you can do.”
Franchise leagues are a means to an end, albeit a potentially highly lucrative one, for a cricketer whose prime Twenty20 motivation is to excel for his country, specifically at the next short-format ‘World Cup’ in Australia in 2020.
“It’s hard to [improve] without playing,” Root added. “It’s completely out of my control.
“All I can do is, when I play Twenty20 cricket, just make sure I’m doing everything I can to win and score as many runs as possible.
“I’m not going to go into any game thinking, ‘If I play well here I could get an IPL deal at the end of it’.
“I’m going into (it) to do the best job I can to win the game of cricket.”