Joe Root says watching The Test has motivated him to keep plotting how England can “do something special” and regain The Ashes in Australia in 2021-22.
The England captain has watched the Amazon documentary on the Australia cricket team – which includes how Tim Paine’s side retained the urn with a 2-2 draw last summer – during an enforced spell at home because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Speaking to journalists on a conference call on Monday, Root explained how his men must use this downtime to prepare for the Ashes and revealed why he is hopeful they can give a stronger account of themselves than when they were beaten 4-0 in Australia in 2017-18.
“I resisted watching it for a good while but having exhausted a lot of the shows I wanted to watch, it has come around,” Root said of The Test. “It has been a good motivator to get back on the bike and incentivise myself.
“It goes without saying that the World Test Championship is very important and each game holds a huge amount of weight as we try and get into that final [scheduled for Lord’s in June 2021]. But a lot of things we do revolve around planning for that Ashes series.
“We have around 17-20 games until we go there and play – if all are played – and we have to use every opportunity to be ready for what those conditions throw at us, what Australia throw at us on and off the field.
“We need to use this time to ready ourselves to do something special because we know how challenging it can be to play there.
“You look at some of the guys we have brought into the squad over the last year or so – trying to add different elements that will work in those conditions. Guys like Mark Wood, guys like Olly Stone.
You can never really replicate the dressing-room environment and building something as a group of players. You spend a long time working towards something collectively and that’s something you can take for granted, especially when you play as much as we do. It has become more evident the longer we spend apart and, as this goes on, I can see that being the thing that sticks out.
Joe Root on being apart from his team due to coronavirus
“You also look at the fast-bowling contracts that have come in, which are encouraging guys in county cricket to go out and bowl as fast as they can.
“Adding that X-factor to the very talented and skilful bowling group that we have already can give us that variety, something we may have lacked on previous tours.
“That played a part in South Africa [where England won 3-1 this winter] and found us ways of taking 20 wickets in foreign conditions.
“Hopefully if we can keep putting experience into a number of the young batters as well and give them game time, then we are starting to build a team that has confidence, experience and is hardened for the challenges Australia will throw up.”
[Not playing all season] has definitely crossed my mind, it’s a possibility. But we have to remain optimistic and be ready. It may be that my wife has to start giving me throwdowns in the garden! I’ve done a lot of fielding and given [my son] Alfie a lot of throwdowns. I think he’s about 500-4 at the minute, it’s a bit of a flat track here!
Root on whether the entire 2020 season could be wiped out
The coronavirus pandemic led to the postponement of England’s two-Test tour of Sri Lanka around a week before the first game of the series was due to be played in Galle from March 19.
Reports have suggested the contests could be rearranged for early January in 2021, shortly before England embark on a five-Test series in India.
Root says that would provide a tough assignment for his players but feels cricket must be “open minded” with the outbreak halting the sport for the foreseeable future.
“It would be a very tough winter, a huge amount of workload, especially on the multi-format players, but we have had some tough winters in the past and found ways to get through them,” Root said when asked about rescheduling the Sri Lanka series.
“It would be interesting to see how they would fit it in looking at the schedule as it right now but if it was to go ahead, we would have to be able to adapt, look at the squad sizes we take over and make sure guys weren’t blown out and overworked.
“If we are lucky enough to be in a position where we can play then we should try but whether Tests overpower other formats is going to be difficult to know. We have to be very open minded.”
The England and Wales Cricket Board is preparing to unveil financial measures to aid cricket in the country with the game paused by coronavirus but says pay cuts for centrally-contracted players have not been discussed.
Root feels any change to that decision will be made above his head and says his focus is on staying fit and helping his community – he has become a patron of The Children’s Hospital Charity, with his new role seeing him support the redevelopment of the facilities at Sheffield Children’s Hospital.
We are delighted to announce that International star and @englandcricket Test team captain @root66 has become a patron for The Children’s Hospital Charity!
Joe’s new role will see him support our fundraising to redevelop the facilities at Sheffield Children’s Hospital! pic.twitter.com/Yltydy3WFi
The 29-year-old has also commended the work of the National Health Service during the pandemic.
On potential pay cuts for cricketers, Root said: “I am sure at some point in the coming weeks there will be a discussion but those discussions will probably take place between the PCA [Professional Cricketers’ Association] and the ECB. Until that happens, that is not my area of expertise.
“We just have to concentrate on being as fit as we can be for when we get back playing cricket and making sure we are doing everything we can to look after the community.
“How the NHS has dealt with this situation has been amazing. The amount of people who have volunteered is fantastic and to see communities coming together is really special and motivating.
“It’s powerful seeing how groups of people come together and show support for the NHS.
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