Warner and Sehwag set the template for Roy to replicate white-ball form
Opener can flourish in Tests with an attacking mindset complemented by some common sense
If Jason Roy wants a template on which to base his Test career, he should look to his opposite number in England’s Ashes opponents this summer – David Warner. Like Roy, Warner went from Twenty20 and 50-over cricket straight into the Test game and has made a stunning success of it – precisely because he adapted his game to the longer format. Watch Warner in a Test now, and he does not just try to whack everything. Instead, he takes his time, assesses conditions and plays the ball on its merits. Yes, he is still an attacking player, but that attitude is tempered by common sense.
Virender Sehwag was the same for India, taking the positive mindset which had served him so well in one-dayers into the Test arena. It made him a nightmare to play against because, as an opposing captain, you knew that if you did not get him out in the first hour, India would get off to a flier.
He had the potential to destroy all your carefully laid plans as a captain, and Roy can have that same kind of impact for England. He certainly has all the attributes you want in a Test opener.
If you see him in a one-day innings, he watches the ball very well, is very strong down the ground and plays the ball as late as possible. All those skills are invaluable in the longer format, especially playing late, when you are facing a red ball that will swing more than a white one.
He must not fall into the trap of
thinking that just because he has the reputation as an attacking player, he must try to smash every ball, but retaining a positive mindset is crucial if he is to have the impact England are expecting.
In that regard, England have to show a bit of patience, as does everyone following the team. A player such as Roy is going to play the odd iffy shot and get out – that is just what happens when someone likes to get on the front foot and dominate the bowling.
The key is for him to take the confidence and swagger he showed in the World Cup – when his return from injury transformed a team who had been wobbling badly into winners – and not overthink things.
Do not get bogged down by thinking you need to bat all day, or two sessions or whatever – just trust your instincts. They have served you pretty well up to this point.
Roy’s selection tells me a lot about the way England want to take their Test team, because it has changed the dynamic of the top order at a stroke.
Recently, England have had three old-school players in the top three positions – accumulators who were conservative in their approach and whose main priority was occupying the crease. Picking an attacking batsman such as Roy and asking him to front up to a world-class new-ball attack in Australia shows me that England want to up their aggression.
They want to dictate the tempo of the Test and put their opponents on the back foot.
It is the way this team need to go. To put it bluntly, they just do not have a Geoffrey Boycott-style “wall” who can come in and bat for six hours – in fact, not many teams have anyone like that these days.
We are living through a changing era of cricket. Shots that would have been considered madness in my era are now par for the course, and scoring rates are sky-high. England are at the forefront of that – they have an abundance of aggressive, powerful batsmen who can take the game to the opposition, so they just have to go with it.
That is one of the reasons I would have been tempted to pair Roy with Jonny Bairstow at the top of the Test order, recreating the partnership from one-day cricket. That would obviously only work if Jonny was happy to give up the wicketkeeping gloves to Ben Foakes – and we know that is not what he wants, so it would probably be a short conversation. Still, it must have been seriously tempting for the selectors to raise it as a possibility.
What England do not have to worry about is players such as Roy being overawed by the occasion – winning the World Cup in the manner they did proved that will not be an issue. Neither will Roy’s confidence be knocked by getting a couple of low scores, as he has the kind of attitude that will shrug that off very quickly.
That said, it will do him no harm if he gets a big score against Ireland.
It might not be the showpiece Test of the summer, but he will walk out at Edgbaston for the first Ashes game next week in a much better mood if he is coming off the back of a big hundred against the Irish. Set the tone today, and Australia will have been served notice.