Joe Root: why has England cricketer chosen T20 franchise cricket in an ODI World Cup year?

Joe Root will be playing T20 franchise cricket, while England play an ODI series against

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It has been an exceptionally long month for fans of England cricket, as the wait goes on for the squad’s return to action. Five arduous weeks have passed since Ben Stokes and his Test team completed their third triumphant match against Pakistan in the National Stadium of Karachi, but now it is time for Jos Buttler to lead the way as we prepare for the first ODI series of the year.

As Buttler prepares to take on Temba Bavuma and the rest of the South African side, England will welcome back a real force to be reckoned with in fast bowler Jofra Archer.

The Sussex paceman has been out of action for nearly two years with a plethora of injury issues, but for the first time since March 2021, the 27-year-old is set to don the England shirt; with an Ashes and ODI World Cup to look forward to later this year, there could be no better sight than Archer back in action.

Well, that may not be quite true. One sight that could be even better, would be to see Archer joined in the tour squad by former England skipper Joe Root.

The Yorkshireman has opted out of competing in South Africa and and instead chosen to team up with the Dubai Capitals for the inaugural UAE International T20 League - the latest limited overs competition, alongside South Africa’s CSA20, to lure in the world’s elite stars.

The 32-year-old is far from the only Englishman to currently be out competing in the Middle East. In fact, the Gulf Giants and Desert Vipers appear to be made up almost entirely of English players, with James Vince, Chris Jordan, Rehan Ahmed, Jamie Overton, Richard Gleeson, Liam Dawson and Ollie Pope in the former while Sam Billings, Alex Hales, Tom Curran, Saqib Mahmood, Ben Duckett, Tymal Mills, Jake Lintott and Adam Lyth are playing for the latter.

Yet, what marks Root differently to his fellow compatriots is that the majority of players who have been selected for both the International League and ODIs are playing in both.

Root celebrates match victory and a century with a ‘mic drop'Root celebrates match victory and a century with a ‘mic drop'
Root celebrates match victory and a century with a ‘mic drop'

The Sharjah Warriors captain is Moeen Ali and his UAE squad features Chris Woakes and Dawid Malan. All three are set to play in this weekend’s ODI series, therefore prioritising country and ODI format over what it would be fair to describe as a relatively unimportant competition.

This begs the question, why has Root, in effect, chosen ‘club over country’? Well, when something happens in the UAE, it’s naive to suggest money probably isn’t involved; Root will no doubt be handsomely rewarded for his efforts in Dubai.

On a side note, his decision to participate in a country where homosexuality is illegal, after recieving widespread acclaim for calling out an opposition slur for an alleged homophobic slur back in 2019, is a dissapointing one for those who had subsequently viewed him an LGBTQ+ ally.

Interestingly, Root’s decision doesn’t appear to be purely down to securing a hefty pay day - it would appear that he has set his sights on getting his T20 career back on track ahead of the 2024 T20 World Cup, despite the fact that later on this year is the ODI World Cup.

Surely, it would be better to prioritise the format whose World Cup is in just a few months rather than put efforts in preparing for one that won’t take place until the middle of 2024.

In a recent interview, as written up by The Cricketer, Root defended the decision by saying: “I always used to get rested for the T20s and I feel like I got alienated from the format because I had not played enough of it. You can feel like you are getting left behind a little bit. Now, the next couple of years might be a good time to explore playing a little bit more of that format and see how far I can take that side of my game.”

That’s all well and good, but it shouldn’t come at the detriment of his ODI career, which could do argubaly with some finessing ahead of India. Since the 2019 World Cup, Root has averaged less than 30 and he is yet to hit an ODI century in this time. Missing this series against South Africa lessens his opportunities to get back his stunning 50-over format best - the kind of form that saw him perform the iconic ‘mic drop’ celebration after an iconic innings against India in 2018.

Ben Stokes was England’s 2019 World Cup hero and since he announced his retirement, Jos Buttler will need to rely on the likes of Root to bring the squad much needed experience, as well as reliability. By prioritising a T20 league competition, with the expectation being it helps him in the IPL auction is quite frankly baffling.

Once thing is clear, however: whatever the reasons for Root’s decision to choose T20 franchise cricket over preparing for the World Cup, it must not set a precedent which trickles through the rest of the England squad. Two World Cup wins in one year would be something truly spectacular - why risk that glorious possibility by chasing distractions elsewhere?

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