No matter how good he still looks driving down the ground, on the up, against the new ball, there is absolutely no doubt that Jason Roy is horrendously out of nick. Surely with a game coming up against Australia on Saturday in which, statistically at least, the result has no bearing on England’s ability to qualify for the semi-finals, it is time to give a chance to Jonny Bairstow?
Now, it must be noted that I am not in any way giving up on Jason Roy as an England batsman. Indeed, he is probably the player out of England’s star-studded top six that I’ve been most excited about over the past two years. Since making an opening birth his own after England’s ill-fated world cup in 2015, Roy has blasted England into positions of strength in the first powerplay on countless occasions; his career ODI record probably doesn’t do him justice with an average a shade under 35 with nine hundreds from his forty-five appearances. Especially when that includes a top score of 162 off just 118 balls against Sri Lanka at the Oval last summer. There is also no doubt that at only 26 years of age he is very much in England’s long-term plans, with a particular eye on the world cup in England in 2019.
However, he is woefully out of form this summer, and England can’t afford to carry him any longer with the semi-finals of the Champions Trophy only a week away. After a frustrating IPL in which Roy was limited only to three appearances for the Gujurat Lions (an experience which Roy himself called “a bit of a waste” due to the amount of cricket he missed at home), the England opener’s form has continued on a downward trend ever since. His scores through two home series against Ireland and South Africa plus the first two games of the trophy read: 0, 20, 1, 8, 4, 1, 13. By anyone’s standard, it’s simply not good enough. By the standards of a team looking to win their first global 50-over tournament, it surely means a change is necessary.
There can be no doubt that a big reason for England’s success over the past two years has been their loyal selection policy which has given the necessary chances for each individual to prove and embed themselves into England’s top six, which up until now has effectively picked itself for some time.
That said, we’re now at the business end of a trophy, and against New Zealand, Roy looked like someone scrapping around desperately hoping to hit his way into form, but his 13 off 23 balls now increasingly makes him look like the writing might be on the wall for this tournament.
Add to this the fact that in Jonny Bairstow, they have a batsman in world class form who has been bashing down the selection committee room door for some time now, and it would seem like now is a good time to make the change.
The argument against Bairstow could be his lack of opening experience. Although, he has been played all over England’s middle order over the past couple of years in all formats, and rarely failed to deliver. For those who forget, when he did open the batting earlier this season for Yorkshire against Durham in the one-day cup, he smashed 174 off just 113 balls. He has also not let England down on his most recent international appearances. He scored 56 at Kolkata in his only appearance in India, 10* and 72* against Ireland, then 51 against South Africa when all hell was breaking loose at the other end when England found themselves 20 for 6 after 5 overs at Lords last weekend. He has not done anything in each of those instances to warrant getting dropped other than players returning to the fold. But when one of those players returning looks so dreadfully short of form as Roy currently does, the argument for Bairstow’s inclusion seems to be no-brainer.
Although a clash with Australia is never a small matter, the fact that England have already qualified for the semis at least means there is ever so slightly less pressure on Bairstow if he was to come in to the side on Saturday. It would mean he effectively has a free shot at the Australian seamers, and if he gets a score, it would then mean England head into their showdown in the last four with their entire top order bang in form.
They will take some stopping if that’s the case. England’s selection policy over the past two years must be commended bearing in mind their change in fortunes. Whether the England management are brave enough to break with convention and make this change when it matters most remains to be seen.