Joe Root admits he is stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to his T20 career. Though he is desperate to play more of the format, fearing he will get left behind in the fastest-growing version of the game, he was rested for the recent tri-series in Australia and New Zealand and also overlooked for an IPL deal.
Prior to missing out at the auction in late January, Root himself had admitted unease at how it might look after he was withdrawn from England’s T20 squad amid workload concerns, while still eyeing his first trip to the IPL.
However, he is more worried about his development in a format that is often the one to make way when his international commitments are trimmed back, given that he is Test captain and vital to the one-day side at No. 3. Furthermore, his England duty limits his T20 Blast time with Yorkshire: since 2012 he has played just five T20 matches for his county. But despite this, in T20Is he averages 39.10 with a strike-rate of 128.76 – have a better average than Root.
“The reason I wanted to go out there was to play more T20 cricket, it wasn’t to go and earn as much money as possible,” Root said. “I’m not in that position. I’m looking to try and develop my white-ball game as much as possible. The amount of T20 cricket I’m available to play at the moment is minimal and there’s a World T20 in a couple of years’ time and I thought it would be a great opportunity to get some good experience in a fantastic tournament.
“It was disappointing but it’s also very understandable. Sides have a clear idea of what they want the make-up of their team to look like and they build around that. For me, I wasn’t going to fit into any one of those teams, which is slightly disappointing, but there’s not really much you can do.”
There were likely to have been other factors in Root’s non-selection for the IPL, not least the fact that he wouldn’t have been available for the closing stages of the tournament due to England’s Test series against Pakistan. It’s not until 2020, and the new structure to the English season, that England’s red-ball players will get a free run at the IPL.
From a cricketing point of view, Root did not believe there was anything else he could do. “It’s hard to do that without playing,” he said. “It’s completely out of my control. All I can do is when I play T20 cricket is just make sure I’m firstly 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 that game to do the best job I can to win the game of cricket. If, down the line, I get opportunities that would be great – I’m sure I’d benefit from it. But if that’s not to be then so be it.”
Root needed some persuading to miss the recent tri-series, having rebuffed Trevor Bayliss’s initial suggestion of a rest to be included in the squad. In the end, though, Bayliss had his way and Root returned home for two weeks before flying back out for the one-day series in New Zealand.
“It was a long discussion about that tri-series and I was desperate to play because of that very reason – I want to make sure I’m playing as much as possible in that format so that I’m giving myself the best chance when that World T20 comes around,” he said. “But also, I’m mindful of the amount of cricket we have got coming up and, with the World Cup coming up next year in 50-over cricket and being Test captain now, it seemed like the right time to have a small break and ensure I didn’t burn out over the course of what is going to be a very busy summer and back end of this winter.”
Root, a player who, on merit, would be involved in all three formats, is a prime exhibit for the ongoing debate about workload and schedules. He does not have a magic solution but, even amid a debate about his T20 career, is concerned that whatever way the game heads, it protects red-ball cricket.
“You need to make sure you’re making red-ball cricket really exciting to watch, whether that’s at the ground or on telly and making it as appealing as possible to bring people to watch it,” he said. “That’s especially the case in Test cricket now, so it doesn’t lose its edge and wilt away.”
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.