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T20 World Cup 2021

What do England do if Jason Roy is ruled out of the T20 World Cup?

Ben Gardner by Ben Gardner
@Ben_Wisden 3 minute read

For Jason Roy, the feeling will have been ‘not again’. His 2019 Cricket World Cup campaign was nearly ruined by a hamstring injury, and now a seemingly similar complaint could see his T20 World Cup ended prematurely.

In 2019, England had the luxury of a lengthy group stage to allow Roy to recover, and he returned to hit three half-centuries in three games on England’s march to the final, helping turn around a tournament that had been in danger of slipping out of control.

This time, the short timeframes make such a comeback unlikely. Official confirmation is yet to come, but judging by the nature of the injury and Roy’s reaction, his race might be run. If that is the case, it’s a heartbreaking end.


For England, the question to answer is who replaces Roy in the XI, and how the line-up should be rejigged in his likely absence.

The most likely option is simply promoting Jonny Bairstow to the top of the order. He is arguably the greatest ODI opener there has ever been, has a strike-rate of 137 opening the batting for England, and is a feared new-ball striker in the IPL. It’s the option England took when Jos Buttler was injured during the summer, with Bairstow making a duck and a fifty in two innings opening the batting against Sri Lanka.

However, it would also weaken a strength, with Bairstow making the No.4 slot his own. At second-drop he can take on the spinners in the middle overs and keep England’s charge going. England have Moeen Ali, who can take on the spinners equally well at No.4, while Sam Billings is a good player to have come in at No.6. But there are options both in and out of the XI that would necessitate less reshuffling.

Moeen himself could move up to open, giving England a left/right combination with Jos Buttler. Dawid Malan could also move up one slot, and given his preferred method of getting set and kicking on, there is merit in that option. Liam Livingstone is a player perhaps most like Roy in terms of ball-striking intent.

More out of the box is David Willey, who has often opened in the T20 Blast for Northants, and has as many T20 hundreds to his name as Buttler does. Or there’s James Vince, Roy’s replacement during the 2019 World Cup, England’s batting reserve, and a man with a hundred in his most recent knock for England. Those two players could also slot straight in, without anyone else having to bat outside of their usual slot.

England have plenty of options then, but really, none are a proper replacement for Roy. His T20I record may look middling, with an average below 25. But his strike-rate tells the story. Roy’s devil-may-care approach is central to England’s approach, with his fast starts allowing England to have opposition teams on the back foot from the off, and never let up throughout. At the 2019 World Cup, it was Roy’s presence England missed as much as his runs, with his self-assured strut embodying the attitude of Eoin Morgan’s side.

He joins an injury list of players that would make up nearly half of England’s first-choice side, alongside Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer, Tymal Mills and Sam Curran. England have confirmed their place in the semi-finals and are just two games away from becoming T20 World Cup champions. But if they are to become the first men’s side to hold both white-ball world titles simultaneously, they are going to have to do it the hard way.

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