Apr 092014
 

MJoe Root hardly set the world on fire with the bat over the last 12 months.

MJoe Root hardly set the world on fire with the bat over the last 12 months. Source: Peter Wallis / News Limited

ISN’T it fabulous to see England batsman Joe Root formally recognised for his great Ashes contribution … lending his face to Dave Warner’s fist.

TWO AUSSIES IN WISDEN TOP FIVE

Root’s head-butt of Warner’s fist in a Birmingham nightclub last year was undoubtedly a forward-thinking masterstroke. The Poms loved it when Australia suspended Warner from the Ashes opener and did not recall him until the third Test.

Joe Root failed to flatter on the Ashes tour.

Joe Root failed to flatter on the Ashes tour. Source: News Limited

Now cricket bible Wisden has given Root the ultimate acknowledgement for the nightclub naughtiness, naming the baby-faced batsman as one of its five Cricketers of the Year.

Well surely that is why they have given him the traditional honour, which dates back to 1889? It can’t be for his batting. Or anything else.

Let’s look at the figures that matter.

In 2013, the best Root could muster was a batting average of 34.48 spread across the large sample size of 14 Tests.

And in the Ashes in England which the Poms won comprehensively, he averaged 37.

The pointy heads at Wisden named him as one of the world’s five best cricketers on the back of one really good innings, his 180 in the second Ashes Test at Lord’s.

After Wisden’s grand announcement, there were plenty of other one-hit wonders feeling more than a bit miffed they weren’t included on the list.

Joe Root spent a lot of time ducking and weaving in Australia.

Joe Root spent a lot of time ducking and weaving in Australia. Source: News Limited

And what about the likes of Michael Clarke (1093 Test runs at 47 in 2013), South Africa batsman AB de Villiers (933 runs at 77) and Pommy quick Stuart Broad (62 wickets at 25.8).

Not to mention Ashes hero Mitchell Johnson who still managed to take 34 Test wickets at 17.52 despite missing a large chunk of the Test year.

The issue here is that Wisden’s award doesn’t actually recognise the best players of the year, it simply glorifies performances from the previous English summer.

And you can’t win the award twice.

So Root got the gig on a process of elimination as just about every other England player had won it already.

In the fair dinkum department, it was a much greater honour for the overseas players Ryan Harris, Chris Rogers and India’s Shikhar Dhawan who were among the five Cricketers of the Year.

Wisden has been known as the cricket bible for an eternity but Root’s award shows it can be a book that sometimes makes no sense.

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Mar 282014
 
Moeen Ali and “planning for the future”

The concept of ‘planning for the future’ is often used to explain the inclusion of younger players in favour of perhaps superior older players. This preference is often presented as being ‘an investment’. That, on the face of it, is a perfectly valid modus operandi. It gives the sense that there is some overarching strategy.

The problem comes when investments aren’t given chance to mature or when other decisions indicate that selectors don’t put as much store in investment as they claim to. Our issue with Moeen Ali’s selection in England’s World T20 team isn’t that we think he’s a bad player; it’s that we think a player of potential is being treated badly.

As recently as January 2014, Moeen Ali wasn’t even in England’s Twenty20 squad. Come the World Cup – which doesn’t exactly arrive unexpectedly – he is batting at number three. We know that there has been an injury to Joe Root and an infamous sacking, but in the shortest format, the top three are disproportionately important. You’d think you’d have seen the batsmen occupying those slots at some point in the last couple of years.

England will frame this as being ‘a great opportunity’ for Moeen; a ‘chance to show what he can do’. But he’s basically been set up to fail. They haven’t invested in him. They’ve stuck a quid in the slot in the vague hope that he’ll pay out. If he doesn’t, they’ll shake him and kick him and be more reluctant to ‘invest’ a second time.

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Mar 212014
 
Joe Root: Batsman backs underfire Jonathan Trott to achieve Test return for England

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.”

Mar 102014
 
Vivisection on England’s World T20 squad

It’s not dead yet, but let’s take our cleaver and dice it anyway. It’s only a matter of time.

Batting

No Kevin Pietersen, the man of the tournament the only time England won a big competition, so who’s going to pick up the slack?

Well not Joe Root. He’s got a broken thumb. Since breaking it, he’s scored a hundred and taken a wicket in his first over while opening the bowling, but you really don’t want to risk valuable young cricketers when they’re injured. That leaves us with something like:

  • Michael Lumb
  • Alex Hales
  • Luke Wright
  • Eoin Morgan
  • Jos Buttler
  • Ravi Bopara
  • Ben Stokes

Of those, we are very, very happy with Morgan, Buttler and Bopara, but anticipate flakiness from the other four. Hales is in credit, but seems happier against fast bowlers, who might not be so plentiful on Bangladesh’s pitches. It’s a similar story with Wright. After 44 T20 international innings, he averages 18 and his four fifties were scored against New Zealand (two), Afghanistan and the Netherlands. He doesn’t inspire confidence.

Bowling

This is where things look really wonky. In fact, most of the bowlers aren’t actually bowlers – they’re all-rounders. We know that it’s all about having ‘options’ but you also want things to go well once you’ve taken one of those options. Where are the specialists?

Well there’s James Tredwell, whose one-day economy doesn’t seem to translate so well to the shortest format and there’s Chris Jordan whose economy rate in domestic T20 is a worrying 8.59. There’s Tim Bresnan, who’s nice and sensible and there’s Jade Dernbach, who we’re not even going to bother passing comment on. Finally, there’s Stephen Parry who’s the non-spinning spinner no-one’s heard of who will probably outbowl everyone. England like to find a new one of those for each World T20 tournament.

There may or may not be Stuart Broad. England’s captain is out of the current series, but they’re giving him a knee injection. He doesn’t seem certain whether it’s his fourth or fifth.

It makes sense considering:

“It’s just gradually got worse throughout the winter with the amount of bowling I’ve been doing – no real break – so it’s something I need to act on now to make sure I’m fit and firing for that World Cup.”

As we said earlier, sometimes you have to risk valuable young cricketers even when they’re injured. Wait. What did we say earlier?

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We have still only read two chapters of A Last English Summer

Feb 282014
 
Warner’s off-field year to forget

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DAVID Warner enraged South Africans by accusing the Proteas — and AB de Villiers specifically — of altering the condition of the ball during the second Test at Port Elizabeth.

But it was hardly the only time the Australian batsman has attracted headlines for the wrong reasons.

We look back on a turbulent 10-month period.

May 2013 — Twitter spat with Conn, Craddock

Warner was fined $5750 by Cricket Australia for a profanity-laced Twitter exchange with veteran journalists Malcolm Conn and Robert Craddock.

Warner was playing in the IPL at the time and took exception to an online story in the early hours of the morning.

“Some of the guys think it’s comical and some of the guys think it was disgraceful what I did,’’ Warner said at the time.

“But at the end of the day if I didn’t use the language I did, it might have went the other way. It was my fault, I take full blame for what’s happened.’’

June 2013 — Joe Root pub dust-up

Warner was suspended from the Champions Trophy and fined $11,500 for his involvement in an altercation with Joe Root.

Warner believed Root was mocking South African batsman Hashim Amla by wearing a fake beard and responded by throwing a ‘jumper punch’ at the England batsman.

“Definitely not. I don’t think I’ve got a drinking problem at all,” Warner told a packed press conference in London.

“It’s just basically I’ve got to make the right decisions at the right time.”

Warner’s ban extended to Australia’s pre-Ashes tour matches, effectively ruling him out of the first two Tests in England.

David Warner holds a press conference after he was suspended for an alleged attack on Joe

David Warner holds a press conference after he was suspended for an alleged attack on Joe Root. Source: Getty Images

July 2013 — Brother’s Twitter rant

Given the events of the previous two months, Warner could have done without an incident involving his brother, Steve.

“F***ing selfish Watson sooner your (sic) out if (sic) the side you great pretender the better,” Steve Warner tweeted only minutes after Watson unsuccessfully reviewed his dismissal leg before wicket in Australia’s first innings.

David Waner issued the ensuing statement: “Earlier this week, my brother Steven Warner published a Tweet about Shane Watson. Like everyone, he is entitled to his opinions but I want to state categorically that I do not endorse his comments and fully support Shane and all my teammates.”

October 2013 — Grade cricket no-show

Warner raised the ire of his employers at Cricket NSW by shunning a game for his grade team, Randwick-Petersham, in favour of a day at the racetrack. Warner was handed a suspended one-game ban.

“I believed I was doing the right thing by focusing on my training and batting, but in hindsight I should have played,” Warner said at the time.

“I remain determined to score runs for NSW and Australia and am also looking forward to taking the field for Randy-Petes this round.”

November 2013 — Jonathan Trott sledge

Warner was not to know England batsman Jonathan Trott would leave the series after one Test due to a stress-related illness.

Still, his comments during the Brisbane Test were deemed by many to have crossed a line.

“The way that Trotty got out today was pretty poor and pretty weak,” Warner said at the time.

“Obviously there is a weakness there at the moment and we’re probably on top of it. I think he’s got to get new sledges as well because it’s not working for him at the moment.”

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February 2013 — Ball tampering feud

Warner was fined $2900 by the International Cricket Council and reprimanded by his captain, Michael Clarke, after telling Sky Sports Radio he suspected the South Africans had altered the condition of the ball during the second Test in Port Elizabeth.

“We were actually questioning whether or not AB de Villiers would get the ball in his hand and with his glove wipe the rough side every ball,” Warner said.

“That’s another thing we have to try and bring up with the umpires.”

The South African team and media took exception to Warner’s comments and even his Australian teammate Ryan Harris conceded the controversial batsman had erred in his statement.

Feb 252014
 
Root hits ton but Corbin makes England work

England XI 290 for 8 (Root 104*, Stokes 58) beat UWI Vice Chancellor’s XI 261 for 7 (Corbin 105, Tredwell 3-39) by 29 runs
Scorecard

Joe Root brought out a full range of shots, UWI Vice Chancellor's XI v England XI, Tour match, February 25, 2014

Joe Root lifted England to a total that proved enough despite Kyle Corbin’s ton © Getty Images
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Joe Root warmed up for the one-day series against West Indies with an unbeaten 104, but England were given a scare by Kyle Corbin who struck a powerful century before wrapping up a 29-run win at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium.

After compiling 290 for 8 on the back of Root’s hundred, England made steady inroads into the UWI Vice Chancellor’s XI once they broke a half-century opening stand and appeared to have the game completely in hand. However, 23-year-old Corbin, who has a List A average of 13.43, added 103 with Devon Thomas, who has played 21 ODIs, to give the VC XI an outside chance of reaching their target.

Thomas was bowled by Stuart Broad to bring relief to England but Corbin reached a 98-ball century and it was only when he found short third man off Tim Bresnan that the visitors were absolutely assured of not suffering an upset.

Root hit nine boundaries in run-a-ball stay as he anchored the innings from No. 4 following a brisk opening stand of 58 by the new-look pair of Alex Hales and Luke Wright.

In Australia, Root lost his place in the one-day side for two matches before returning for the final game in Adelaide where he hit 55 and this innings assures him of another run in the team as England look to begin the rebuilding after a debilitating few months.

With England’s onus very much on Twenty20, regular one-day openers Alastair Cook and Ian Bell have remained at home so Hales is in line for his ODI debut on Friday. Wright was given the first opportunity to be alongside him, ahead of Michael Lumb or Moeen Ali, and struck the ball cleanly before finding deep cover.

Hales top-edged a pull to be caught and bowled after playing himself in then Root and Ben Stokes (58) added 68 in 12 overs. Stokes continued in the No. 3 role that he was promoted to during the one-day series in Australia and cleared the boundary four times before falling to Miguel Cummins, the pace bowler who made his ODI debut againstIreland at the weekend.

England’s middle-order strokemakers, Eoin Morgan and Jos Buttler, could not get going, both falling lbw to legspinner Akeem Dewar. When Ravi Bopara fell to Raymon Reifer England had lost 4 for 50 and the innings was threatening to fizzle away.

However, Root and Bresnan added 62 in seven overs for the seventh wicket, Root dominating the partnership as he moved towards three figures.

Chadwick Walton and Adrian Barath gave the VC XI a steady start before James Tredwell struck with his first ball when Walton pulled a long hop to long-on and then had Paul Palmer caught at slip. The same bowler-catcher combination came together for a third time to remove Barath when Jordan was back at long-on.

When Broad and Bopara claimed a wicket apiece the VC XI were 143 for 5 and it appeared a formality for England, but Corbin kept them on their toes.

Feb 122014
 
Joe Root to be restored as an opening batsman for Yorkshire after captain Andrew Gale admits he wants to give him a 'fair run'

Root has batted at every position in the top seven during his 15 games as a Test player, but has spent the majority of his county career as an opener.
He took that role during last summer’s home Ashes but was moved to six and then three in the return …

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