England have left the World Cup door open for Jason Roy as a possible replacement after the slugger suffered the ‘hammer blow’ of being knocked out on the eve of a second successive major tournament.
Roy was named in a 15-man provisional squad last month but missed all four matches of New Zealand’s recent series with back spasms and was dropped yesterday in favor of Harry Brook.
Brook will now be rested for the three-match series against Ireland which begins at Headingley on Wednesday, but Joe Root will be added to what is otherwise a second-string squad for this match as he seeks 50-over form .
Discussing the finalized England squad this morning, national coach Luke Wright revealed that Jofra Archer will be the only official reserve to travel to India as he continues his recovery from a stress fracture in his elbow, while other players placed on hold will be left at home and spared the trip until they are needed.
These could include Roy, who Wright confirmed was in line to start the World Cup by opening the batting alongside Jonny Bairstow until Dawid Malan’s player of the series against the Black Caps in its absence forces us to rethink.
“Talk about grabbing an opportunity with both hands,” Wright said of Malan, who made 277 runs in three innings, including a fifth ODI century since the start of last summer. “He was absolutely exceptional.
“We realized that things had changed slightly and Dawid would be the one to open the batting with Jonny in the World Cup. So it was really about the spare hitter and what did that look like? From Jason’s point of view, he’s probably only covering us for an opening match. Harry gives us this cover from #1 to #6.
Roy, who was also ruled out during the build-up to last year’s T20 World Cup success, was informed of the decision yesterday in a phone call from captain Jos Buttler. The 33-year-old hinted in an interview earlier this month that his international career could end after the autumn tournament and it now seems entirely possible that a truly great England white-ball player has played his last match for his country.
However, Wright insisted Roy would remain the selectors’ preference to join the team if either Bairstow or Malan suffered an injury, provided he was prepared to remain on standby.
“As the backup hitter at the top of the order, we’ve made it very clear that we still view him as the man to do this,” Wright added. “We talked to him about it and he has time to think about it over the next few days. This is obviously not an easy pill to swallow.
“The previous answer was that he was still available for England. Now, unless that changes, that’s how we see it for now. So for a top-notch backup hitter, Jason will be our guy.
Teams are not required to submit their squads until September 28 and England had the option of giving Roy the next Ireland series to prove his form and fitness before making a final decision.
However, although the Surrey striker was always offered the chance to play a part in these matches, Wright said he was keen to give rested players ahead of the World Cup the confidence that their place was assured.
“We gave Jason the option,” Wright said of his potential involvement against Ireland. “Hearing the news that he was missing the World Cup was a huge blow, so we left that to Jason. The first game at Headingley came too soon but there is still the possibility of playing these last two games.
“We had to be aware that the guys were flying to India the day after the Ireland series, so we wanted to give that a heads up before we went for a few days off, without that indecision or who was leaving and who wasn’t. We wanted take that out of the equation.
Root will play the first match at his home ground on Wednesday, after looking out of sorts against New Zealand with scores of 6, 0, 4 and 29.
“It feels like playing 50-run cricket,” Wright said. “We don’t play a lot in this country and someone like Joe hasn’t played a lot there recently. He just wanted a little more time.
“It shows what makes him a world-class player that when he’s not feeling quite right, he always wants to tinker and do more. Even though we thought he probably needed a break, he just wanted another chance.