Kumar Sangakkara, the former Sri Lanka captain, believes that Jason Roy is ready to bounce back from his disappointing showing in the ICC Champions Trophy, and predicts that his attitude and all-round attributes will make him a valuable asset to England’s one-day team for many years to come.
Sangakkara, who is himself in a golden vein of form, batted alongside Roy as he put his recent England struggles behind him with 92 from 81 balls in Surrey’s Royal London Cup semi-final victory over Worcestershire at New Road last week.
It was a performance full of the sort of power and confidence that Roy so often brings to the top of the order, and which made Eoin Morgan, England’s captain, so reluctant to leave him out of the team during the Champions Trophy, despite a tally of 52 runs in his previous eight innings.
After being backed to come good throughout the group stage of the tournament, Roy was eventually omitted for England’s semi-final against Pakistan in Cardiff. Although his replacement, Jonny Bairstow, chipped in with 43 from 57 balls, England still slumped to a crushing eight-wicket defeat after being bowled out for 211.
“I don’t think Jason was ever out of form,” Sangakkara told ESPNcricinfo during a Chance to Shine Street event in Camden. “I would have loved to have seen him play against Pakistan because I think he was one innings, or a bit of luck, away from doing that for England. He missed out, and whether that had an impact on the final result, I do not know.
“But Jason’s energy, his fielding, his ability to change games at the top, he’s a fantastic asset. I think he just needed a little bit of focussing and advice about how to structure his innings in the Champions Trophy. [At New Road] he came back, took a deep breath, trusted what he knew and batted absolutely beautifully.
“Jason has been an exciting find for England and he’ll be an exciting player for England for many years to come. I think in that position, he’s a complete package and a very valuable part of that side. For us [at Surrey] he’s been a champion.”
It would have been understandable had Roy arrived back in the Surrey dressing-room feeling down on his luck following his England axing, but Sangakkara said that he saw no signs of self-pity from his team-mate.
“Jason is the type of guy who can shrug his shoulders and continue to believe in the fact that he is a good player, continue to assess what he does as a batsman, and go out there and continue to score runs, which is exactly what he did for Surrey. It would have been easy to be consumed by disappointment and forget he was playing an important match for Surrey, but that’s not Jason. He settled in seamlessly, as he always does into our line-up, and played a matchwinning knock.”
For the England team as a whole, the Champions Trophy was a disappointing experience, for all that they had played down their credentials as favourites going into the tournament. But for Sangakkara, who has watched them at close quarters over the years and got the better of them more often than not during the big global tournaments, the signs of progress in white-ball cricket are undeniable.
“I think they’ve played excellent one-day cricket, they play a very attacking brand,” he said. “They’ve changed the expectations they had of themselves and their personnel, and they’ve imprinted on themselves that, if they want to progress, they have to be up to date with strategy, personnel, and style of play.
“English cricket now has accepted the fact that you need players who break the mould, rather than conform, and they’ve gone about embracing the uniqueness of players rather than expecting them to fit into the framework of what a traditional cricketer should be.”
A lot of the credit for that change of attitude, Sangakkara believes, should go to Trevor Bayliss and Paul Farbrace, who came together as a coaching partnership when they took the helm for Sri Lanka in 2007, and both served as head coach during a successful era for the team between 2007 and 2014.
“I’m a great admirer of Paul Farbrace and Trevor Bayliss as a combination and as individuals,” he said. “You hardly see them working. Sometimes coaches make the mistake of being seen to be coaching. You can do too much, which can be disastrous for a side. They are very good man-managers, they read players and people very well, and their greatest asset is that they work seemingly unnoticed.”
Sangakkara added that the continued success of Asian teams at global events – three of the four semi-finalists at the Champions Trophy were from the subcontinent – was proof that England are on the right track in seeking to play their one-day cricket in a freer, more exuberant fashion.
“I think it’s the way we play our cricket, we play in a manner that can look disastrous, you can have very bad days but, more often than not, it’s a celebration of sport. We play with a smile on our faces, with enthusiasm, and we play to win.
“There’s been an Asian team in every World Cup final from 1992 to now, excluding the 2015 World Cup. And, if you take countries that have won all three ICC events, Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka feature prominently.
“I think England have found a very good captain in Eoin Morgan, they just need to keep playing that brand of cricket, no matter what they are faced with. Against Australia, they were three-down but the way [Ben] Stokes and Morgan played showed they are committed to that. Against Pakistan, they were outsmarted by a better side on the day, but it’s just a case of reassessing, recommitting and finding a way to enhance what they are already doing.”
Kumar Sangakkara was attending a Chance to Shine Street cricket session as part of Yorkshire Tea National Cricket Week. To find out more go to www.chancetoshine.org/Street.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket
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