The short version is that between now and England picking their first Test squad to face India in August, Jason Roy will have at most one first-class match in which to make his case for inclusion.
That is one more than most of us have, but significantly fewer than Roy realistically needs. So it isn’t going to happen. And maybe England don’t want it to happen anyway because they’d rather keep him confident and focused on limited overs cricket.
That set of circumstances pretty much sums up our point.
Another time, another place
By the end of 2011, Virat Kohli had eight one-day international hundreds to his name and zero Test hundreds. However, the Test path wasn’t coned off. He wasn’t asked to follow diversion signs taking him back down a more familiar road.
De Villiers’ last Test hundred (do we mean ‘most recent’ or ‘final’) came in January 2015. His most recent one-day international hundred came in January 2016.
This isn’t to talk him down. He’s been an extraordinary batsman, but we’re starting to wonder whether he ever will be again. He’s supposedly fully focused on the 2019 World Cup, but in the Champions Trophy he looked like a man short of cricket. You wonder whether he might want to broaden out his tunnel vision a tad.
In this match he looked like a man playing with a hollow bat.
Jason Roy isn’t in great form either. His body is – as one stout over of straight-batted thonking proved – but his brain is not.
Refusing to stick to the methodology that had started to reap rich dividends, Roy for some reason backed himself to play someone else’s natural game and unfurled a suicidal reverse sweep.
Clearly Roy feels he has something to prove. That proof will probably only come once he feels differently.
Jason Roy edges two cricket balls (ECB via Twitter video)
Just because someone’s due, it doesn’t mean anything’s actually going to happen any time soon. Trust us on this.
Referring to Jason Roy, Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur alluded to the concept of dueness, saying: “We had a discussion in the bus this morning. I was particularly worried that Roy hadn’t fired yet because I think he’s very close to something quite good.”
Arthur went on to question Jonny Bairstow’s credentials as an opener, so it seems fair to assume that the opposition are in favour of England naming an unchanged side. Such is the nature of pre-match bullshittery.
Eoin Morgan deployed all of the ifs in his armoury when floating the possibility that England might make the change. They all paled in significance beside the fact that he was entertaining the prospect at all though.
If someone’s a marginal selection, standard practice is to talk them up and bolster them. Failure to do so rather implies that the decision has been made.
Assuming Bairstow plays, what happens to the great stockpile of runs that Roy has been painstakingly hoarding now?
It’s happened again. Jason Roy wants to do things that will make England worse at cricket.
Ahead of the World T20, Roy appeared to lose sight of his role at the top of the order, which we likened to tinder. He said he wanted to give himself time, apparently unaware that any time he took would have to be stolen from his team-mates.
Similarly, talking about the 50-over game this week, he said: “I want to be that solid guy at the top of the order. Yes, quick 50s and 60s every now and then but big hundreds are at the forefront of my mind.”
That’s all well and good for Jason Roy, but if the best way of shaping his individual innings would be to exercise a degree of restraint early on, that’s not often going to be the best approach for the team innings.
Sometimes it might be, but by and large we’d suggest that England’s cause would be best served by Jason Roy hammering it from the off. When he does that, he not only intimidates the opposition, he also buys time for his team-mates down the order.
That gift is often vital. If everything goes smoothly and the team manages to employ the long handle throughout the innings, Roy’s initial pongo can be the difference between their total and the opposition’s. If there are hiccups along the way and there’s a need to stabilise the innings, quick early runs from Roy mean the middle-order has room for manoeuvre.
It’s not like Roy has a poor individual record anyway. Three hundreds in 36 innings is perfectly acceptable when combined with an average of over 40 and a scoring rate of over a run a ball. Why strive for solidity if it’ll round off the very edge that makes you so useful to the team?
Keaton Jennings will make his Test debut against India and if there’s one aspect of this news that everyone’s talking about, it’s the fact that the Durham opener has two surnames and no first name.
England are not unaware of this and they will no doubt harbour concerns about the balance of the side. The team, as it stands, now contains a surname surplus and a first name shortfall with no immediate solution available.
Long-term, England will no doubt be looking to Jason Roy to fill the void. An enforced name-swap so as to field a Jason Keaton and a Roy Jennings seems unlikely. More likely management will simply be content to weigh all the team’s first names against all of the surnames, dealing with them en masse.
Earlier this year, we suggested that Keaton Jennings would have been One To Watch if we still did that kind of thing. Those who took our implicit advice and opted to track his progress anyway will doubtless feel well-informed about his rise to the England team. Others will just have to trawl through the county cricket category on this website, noting that each time he scored a hundred, we said that he’d scored a hundred.
We don’t believe Jason Roy earned any mentions from us for his County Championship returns this season. This opens up the distinct possibility that England could be profoundly unbalanced for an extended period.
England have found success in T20 through successfully encouraging their batmen to put a low price on their wickets. They bat right on the cusp of irresponsibility in the knowledge that there is always – to quote every commentator ever – “plenty of batting to come.”
In 50-over cricket, there isn’t always plenty of batting to come. Sometimes you run out of batting. 50-over sides need the proper batsmen to hang around. They still need them to score quickly, but not with almost complete disregard for their own survival.
Like pulling a wheelie, it’s tough to find the right balance, but Jason Roy is currently somewhere near the right spot.
Turns out Roy doesn’t need to give himself time. Maybe he is a robot – a roybot, if you will.
Roy’s approach achieves two things. It means England score a bunch of runs and it also means the batsmen who come after him can play with a modicum of control. Not that they necessarily do. When the adrenaline’s pumping, it can be hard to deliberately take singles.
They got enough of them though (plus a few boundaries). They’re into the World T20 final.
Not so long ago, England were claiming that they had little regard for par scores any more. Henceforth, their only target was to be ‘as many as we can get’. Maybe this is still the case, but today’s batting against the West Indies seemed initially cautious to these sometimes blurry eyes.
It seemed unfair on robots that they shouldn’t be permitted time, but that wasn’t what really concerned us. We were more worried about Roy spending any time at all playing himself in. Jason Roy may well need to give himself time, but that is almost exactly what England don’t need.
Roy’s job is to flail from the off, because Alex Hales can’t. If Roy eats up a dozen balls making a similar number of runs, that isn’t really good enough. It’s a fifth of the innings wasted, because Hales will more often than not be doing the same. Hales has earned the right do that. That’s his way. He is the big log England are looking to ignite. In this analogy, Jason Roy is basically just tinder.
That may seem dismissive, but the truth is that this is essentially England’s strategy. They have ten batsmen, only two or three of whom are special. The rest are disposable; fast-burning kindling. A to-hell-with-the-consequences approach at the top of the order is barely even a gamble because the only consequences are to the individual – the team can easily cope with his loss.
In contrast, Chris Gayle is the West Indies’ Hales. And then some.
Gayle is Alex Hales having played hundreds more international matches and twice as much T20. He is an Alex Hales who’s faced every T20 situation and played T20 in every ground. He is an Alex Hales shot-through with experience and shorn of doubt.
Gayle knew that 183 could be chased in Mumbai. All he had to do was go out and do it.