Joe Root believes Australia’s laugh-a-minute victory press conference may come back to haunt the hosts in this winter’s Ashes.
England’s captain was understandably less amused than some by Cameron Bancroft’s party-piece recollection, lapped up by Root’s chuckling opposite number Steve Smith, of the moment Jonny Bairstow delivered his strange ‘head-butt’ greeting for the Australia opener.
It was a gesture, benign in nature if not necessarily some descriptions, dating back to the start of England’s campaign in a Perth bar last month, but which Bairstow was reminded of during the second innings of the first Test.
Bancroft delivered his comic turn in the glow of Australia’s 10-wicket win at the Gabba – and as Root’s men seek to bounce back this weekend, in the inaugural day-night Ashes Test in Adelaide, he hinted the ridiculing of Bairstow may eventually prove an unwise move.
“If that’s not motivation to the players, I don’t know what is,” he said.
“To see a reaction like that in a press conference – if that can’t get you up for the next game I don’t know what can. I hope that will work massively in our favour.
“Knowing the characters in our dressing room, that will really give them a bit of something else to make sure we put things right this week.”
Summing up Australia’s portrayal of Bairstow’s perceived faux pas, he added: “It is just a smokescreen, an attempt at derailing. It’s a strategy they use on occasions, we all knew it was blown widely out of proportion.”
Root’s England will not be shy of returning fire in some form, but the captain does not subscribe to the notion anything goes in pursuit of Ashes victory.
“I think their line and our line are slightly different things – let’s leave it at that,” he said.
“The thing on my mind is how we respond and make sure we do it in our way and not get dragged into doing it their way. That’s not how we operate as a team.
“I think it’s very important we don’t get involved in petty disputes and arguments that are nothing to do with cricket.”
There is one other vexed topic for Root, of course, which shows no sign of abating.
Ben Stokes is set to play for Canterbury Kings in New Zealand on Sunday, while still waiting to see if he will be charged after being arrested back in September on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm.
Police have handed the file to the Crown Prosecution Service, a stage of proceedings which can take several weeks and appears to have scuppered Stokes’ prospects of joining the Ashes.
Root said: “I would personally love to have him back. But these things are completely out of our hands, and we just have to move on.”
To that end, he is telling his team this is their chance to grab the limelight.
“This is their opportunity to stand up and do something a character like Ben would do on the field,” he said. “If you do that on this stage, in this arena, your career is pretty much laid out for you.”
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