Cricket

England vs India 2021 – Joe Root hopes England rest-and-rotation is ‘behind us’ as India and Ashes Tests loom

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Test captain hasn’t given up hope of T20 World Cup involvement after starring role in ODI

Joe Root hopes England’s controversial rest-and-rotation policy can be “put behind us” ahead of the Test series against India and in the Ashes that follows.

While England have selected their strongest available T20I squad for two successive series (in India and against Sri Lanka), they did not have a full-strength Test squad available at any point over the winter.

But Root, England’s Test captain, now anticipates having all of his players available (injuries apart) available for the next 10 Tests, suggesting that such series – and the Ashes in particular – is “what you do it for”.

And with a new cycle of the World Test Championship (WTC) about to start, Root is keen to be involved in the next final rather than watching it on TV, as was the case last week when New Zealand beat India in the inaugural event at the Ageas Bowl.

“We are coming into a period of time now where rest and rotation is put behind us,” Root said. “Hopefully, if everyone is fit, we are going to have our best team available for what is to follow. That’s really exciting and something I’m very much looking forward to.

“We have ten very hard Test matches against two brilliant opposition coming up but it is a great opportunity for us to play some strong cricket and if everyone is fit and available we will have a good team ourselves.

“I’d like to think that, over the next five Test matches, we’ll be trying to play our strongest side or have our strongest squad available for those games. This is, I suppose, what you do it for: to ready yourself for this lead-in and for in particular that Ashes. To make sure everyone’s peaking for that, and these big games.

“Watching the WTC final and not being part of it, it makes you want to be a part of something quite special like that. We have an opportunity now to go a bit further and better than we did the first time out. I’m looking forward to hopefully starting well with a full squad of players to pick from.”

Whether Root is expressing his own aspirations or a new ECB policy is unclear. For while he has maintained the company line over his weakened squads in recent times, there have been moments when his body language has suggested some frustration. It is entirely possible that seeing England play a full-strength T20I side against a modest Sri Lankan opposition, just a couple of weeks after his weakened Test side lost their seven-year unbeaten home record, might have prompted him to express his frustration in a more public way. Either way, the England management can no longer be in any doubt as to his views.

Ultimately, the key to England’s ability to pick their strongest side may lie with the Australian government. The ECB, through Cricket Australia, have requested a dispensation which would allow families to join the team for at least some of the tour. It’s understood the ECB are prepared to charter a flight to facilitate this.

But if that dispensation is not granted, it seems probable that the all-format players – and in particularly those involved in the T20 World Cup and the Ashes – will continue to be rotated to ensure they are not away from their families for too long at a single stretch.

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