Middlesex and Australia batsman Chris Rogers has questioned Joe Root’s ability to open for England, insisting his own domestic batting partner Sam Robson is more deserving of the spot.
The outspoken Aussie has hailed his 24-year-old team mate but has hinted that Root’s position at the top of the order may be partly to blame for England’s batting collapses, which have rapidly become notorious over the winter.
Robson – incidentally, born in Australia – has spent that time drawing some flattering attention to himself, scoring five centuries for the Lions and for the England Performance Programme.
His fortunes have certainly provided a contrast to those of Root, who Rogers has described as “better suited” to the middle order.
England’s victorious Ashes series last summer may now seem a distant memory, but the second Test was the scene of Root’s career high; 180 runs at Lord’s saw Root – and England – flying high, but since then a miserly average of just 25 has seen him mercilessly culled from the national side.
If Root were to be moved down the order, where he may indeed excel due to his near-unparalleled abilities at playing spin, it would beggar the question of who should partner Alistair Cook as opening batsman.
Should it be a question of the youthful Yorkshire batsman being unable to cope with the pressure when the going has got very tough for England, then Robson would surely face even further difficulties, aged just a year older than Root and with no international experience.
Robson, born in New South Wales, in fact could have one day rivalled Rogers for his own opening spot, having played for Australia’s u-19s in an ODI series against Pakistan. While he is yet to be selected for England, however, those close to him insist he will opt to play for England should the chance arrive.
Rogers may have predicted great things for the batsman, but had no such kind words for another of his Middlesex team mates’, Steven Finn, whom he claims is not yet ready to return to England duty. Limited overs coach Ashley Giles made a bold, but nevertheless, unpopular move in declaring Finn “unselectable”, but Finn has blossomed for Middlesex in the first days of the season, taking 4-87 on the first day of their County Championship match against Nottinghamshire.
By the same measure, Gary Ballance has also staked his claim for a place in England’s middle order, which would cast further doubt on where to place Root should he return to the side for the summer series against India and Sri Lanka.
Ballance was out lbw for 77 against Somerset, but despite often being linked with an England call-up, it seems unlikely he will displace one of the country’s established leading lights.
In Root’s favour is that he was honoured by Wisden last week, along with Rogers, and England women’s captain Charlotte Edwards. His Ashes century, together with his maiden Test ton on his home ground, Headingley, where he hit 104 against New Zealand, has seen the Yorkshireman recognised.
That may be difficult for the ECB’s selectors to overlook, but should Root be moved down the order to aid his game, the move may in fact see him shine.
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