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T20 World Cup 2021

Jason Roy: England’s Power Player who will be the key to their success

by Cameron Ponsonby 4 minute read

As England finished their warm-up fixtures ahead of the start of the World Cup, Cameron Ponsonby reviews the importance of Jason Roy to England’s chances.

Late last night, in a couple of texts traded between myself and the Wisden.com managing editor, it was agreed that today would be a good day to write about Jason Roy in order to emphasise just how important we believe he is to England’s hopes of success in this tournament.

Sure, Roy has always been an integral part of this England white-ball set-up, but with the pitches being slow (especially in Sharjah where England will play twice in the Super 12s) and the IPL proving that scoring through the middle-overs has been particularly difficult in the UAE, the importance of taking full advantage of the powerplay has become pivotal to a team’s potential success. And as the man with the highest career strike-rate of any England player in history (145.7), Roy’s ability to get England off to a lightning start will be more crucial than ever.

It also helped that today, England were playing a warm-up game against New Zealand and so with any luck, Jason Roy would score some fast runs and hammer this point home.

And so at 11am, with pen and paper at the ready, I watched as Jason Roy faced up to Tim Southee for the first ball of the match, walked across his stumps – and was bowled.

It was Roy in perfect microcosm. Whether it’s success or failure, everything that Roy does is at 100mph. If he succeeds, the upside for England will be enormous. And if he fails? Well, no harm, no foul. Perversely, a golden duck in T20 cricket is the best duck of all. Yeah, you haven’t scored a run. But you haven’t wasted any time either.

It’s Roy’s role in the side, one of extreme successes dotted amongst regular failures. His record high strike-rate is accompanied by a comparatively mediocre average of 24.85, but from a player who twists on every occasion rather than sticks against the best bowlers in the world it would be naive to expect anything more.

Roy spoke on this point in an interview with The Times earlier this month: “It is a role that you are given and if your team respect that you are going to have some failures….then it is quite easy to get your head around.”

Roy’s importance doesn’t only rest on his ability to get England off to a fast start. He is also one of the few England batters heading into the competition who had a successful IPL. He therefore enters the World Cup both familiar with the pitches and as the man in form who can help to advise his teammates what to expect.

His increased importance for England leads to a counterintuitive dilemma. The history of cricket dictates that your most prized batters should value their wicket the most and take as few risks as possible whilst compiling their runs. In T20 cricket this can lead to nonsense commentary as a player is celebrated for launching a ball into the stands one moment and castigated for finding the hands of a fielder on the boundary the next. Just score at ten runs an over without taking any risks, what’s the problem? But, the value of Roy for England remains in his being the gunslinger with a trigger happy finger who can win them a game in six overs at the crease. It is also why my heart sank a little as he spoke to The Times about how he was maturing as a player.

“It is a case of me growing up and realising that I can be ten off ten and still be 20 off 12. I understand that now. Whereas when I was younger, I always thought that I had to keep going every ball, thinking boundary every ball. Now I have given myself a bit more time, knowing I can catch up with the scoring rate.”

Sensible, forward thinking cricket. That’s not the J-Roy I know. And nor do I want to. And so today, when he ran at Tim Southee first ball aiming a punch through the leg-side, only to be bowled, I let out a smile. England will be just fine.

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