England captain Joe Root addressed the media ahead of the decisive third Test against the Windies at Lord’s tomorrow. This interview was conducted in the ECB offices at Lord’s cricket ground and Root answered the questions of the assembled journalists. He seemed quietly confident in his mannerisms and seemed relaxed in the Lord’s environment. The following is the transcript from his interview and I had the privilege of asking the final question to him.
Joe do you think you brought Woakesy [Chris Woakes] back too soon?
It’s a difficult one, he passed all the fitness tests and seemed fit and it’s always a difficult to one to balance between being physically fit and having the right amount of game time under your belt. Going into this week we picked the side which we think suits the conditions the best and Toby, being in the form he is, he deserves his opportunity.
And any thoughts that it is his home ground?
Yeah absolutely. Knows the ground extremely well and has had great success here over the years and obviously full of confidence in the way he’s played in Test cricket this summer.
If Woakes was match fit and on top of his game, and everyone was fit, would he get into the side?
It’s a difficult one isn’t it? It’s hard to say, but given the way he’s played for England over the last year or so, and how he’s become such a focal part of our team, it’s difficult to look past that. Especially when someone like Toby comes in and starts as well as he has, it’s a great problem to have. That’s what you want, guys putting their hands up and putting in strong performances and making it very difficult for you to leave them out.
Did you give much thought to playing a wrist spinner?
Turning up to the ground you look at the conditions and the surface and it looks for me like the seamers might be more productive on that wicket this week and that’s the reason why we have gone for that extra seam option.
Is Chris 100% fit just to clarify?
Yeah, I mean he’s played over the weekend and got some more good overs in and, as I say, he was fit last week in terms of going out and playing and pulled up well from it. So it was a decision made on who we think is going to be best suited to this wicket.
Was there any thought to playing both maybe and losing a batsman? I wonder if you felt you had to play an extra batsman because you’re trying to sort out who you’re taking to the Ashes.
I think as well you look at the balance of the team with Stokesy as a seamer as well, you don’t want too many options and make sure that the guys can go out there and get rhythm and give them the opportunity to affect the game when they can. I think it’s the balance of the side that works well for us and hopefully, we can have a good week like we have had previously here this year.
Tom [Westley] is trying to establish himself in Test cricket as a top order batsman and indeed do you sort of leave it to him in these circumstances? Or what do you do?
In our changing room, as a group of players, we talk about the game quite a lot and you have to get a balance between working with the rest of the group and picking each other’s brains when you can, but also no one knows his game better than he does. He’s had a lot of success over the years and he’s very smart, he’s intelligent, he’ll be desperate to take his opportunity this week and make a big score.
Do you think on the whole that’s the best thing to do in Test cricket, stick to what you know and it’s best not to have too many voices telling you what to do?
Yeah, it’s difficult for him, and one of the biggest challenges of coming into the Test environment, I remember when I started, you come from country cricket and there’s not a lot of analysis and feedback available. You get generally a laptop and you can watch back your innings, but you don’t get the different camera angles and the exposure that international cricket gives you and that’s something you have to deal with. People have their opinions on how you play and you have to find a way of overcoming that and going out there knowing your game and being strong enough to trust that and know that if you are at your best you will be successful in this arena.
Do you remain steadfast in your belief that you’ll stay at four? Was that something discussed looking at the options you’ve got. Tom has obviously not scored as many runs as he’d like, I thought you might have discussed it?
Not coming into this week no. I think it’s where I feel where I am most comfortable and I think Tom deserves the opportunity to play this week and hopefully go out and score a bag load of runs.
Have you been able to reassure him, obviously players trying to find their way into Test cricket get given a few chances but as the chances tick down, this is the last test match of the summer, and therefore might come with extra pressure, have you been able to relieve some of that pressure?
Yeah I think that the best way to look at it for any player is that when you go out and play for England it’s an opportunity to do something very special, you’ve got a chance to go out and either take five wickets or score a hundred, and make valuable contributions to hopefully going on to win a game and if you take that approach into it then it’s irrelevant what happens beyond that and it’s out of your control. As much as possible you want guys to have that attitude and hopefully, as I said, he can show the strong character that he has as a person and come back from a couple of low scores.
How important is to win the final test of the summer with the winter in mind?
Yes, and to win the series. You set out every series to make sure you’ve done enough to go out there and win and of course, that momentum would be great going into this winter but ultimately we want to finish off whats been a really good summer until now and look back at some really good performances as a group.
Did last week feel like a really significant setback?
Well it’s obviously very disappointing and have to learn a few lessons especially from the first two days and how we weren’t at our best but more than anything it just shows that at different points of time test cricket will always test you, it doesn’t matter who the opposition is, how well you’ve played previous weeks, you’ve got to go out there and have that killer instinct, if you like, at every opportunity and of course the West Indies played well throughout that game but if you’re slightly off the ball or not at your best and don’t play the conditions as well as the opposition then that will cost you.
Do you feel you’ve learned a lot as captain this summer?
Definitely yeah. There have been lots of different scenarios I have found myself in, and we have found ourselves in as a team and the majority of the time we’ve been able to come out on top but I look back at this end of summer and if we have a good week this week with a lot more ease if you like it’ll be great to finish the summer off with a win.
Joe the fixtures are out for the next year now, so you know how the next 18 months are mapping out, have you had any thoughts about putting yourself forward in the IPL next year?
I think not currently, I’ve not had a massive look at things, there’s a lot of cricket to be played at the back end of summer and throughout the winter. I’d love to have the opportunity to experience the IPL at some point further down the line and whether that’s this year or not, who knows. Ultimately I want to play as much and as often for England as possible in all formats and if I feel the IPL is going to get in the way of me doing that to my best then it’s something I won’t just do for the experience and learning of twenty-twenty cricket I want to make sure that I can be as consistent as possible throughout all three formats.
You are going through all three formats this summer so was there any doubt that personally, energy levels would dip? You’re obviously feeling good.
Yeah, I am feeling good. When I feel fit and mentally fit, and not fatigued, then I want to play as much as I can, coming into the back end of this summer I feel in a good place so it will be nice to go out and play some white ball cricket.
You scored a fifty to break the record of most consecutive fifties in Tests what are you going to take from a stat like that? Is it that you are pleased with the consistency you have shown or a slight frustration that more of those haven’t been larger?
I’d much rather they were hundreds and of course you want to be consistent and always scoring but I definitely want to make sure that I try to convert a little bit more. Every time you go out there you want to score as many as you can, and we as a group have had this conversation a number of times over the last three years, but yeah I try not to have too many thoughts on how to go about it but you want to just react and play and hopefully if I do get in and reach a half-decent score I can kick on and make a bigger score like I did last time I played here.
Have you seen that “splodge” on a length at the pavilion end?
Yeah. Whats the technical term? A fairy-ring? We will have to see how it plays I have no idea if it will make any difference whether it’s just a visual blemish or if it might make an impact we will have to see.
You can’t quite ignore it, you can’t miss it can you, it’s right where you are looking?
Well, it depends if you’re looking at the ball! So who knows it might work in our favour, it might not.
How many of the Ashes places in your team are set in your mind?
I’ve not really given it much thought yet but it’s a big week for us. We’ve got to make sure that we win this and we have plenty time off to think about stuff like that after the next five days.
Reflecting on the last Test, your declaration showed a very aggressive approach, is that something you will look to take into Australia, attacking intent? [My question]
I want us to play positive cricket and, as a group, I think that suits the way we make up as a side. We had the opportunity to win, we looked at the fifth day wicket and we looked at all the conditions ahead of us and thought that it was the right thing to do and I like to think that when we get the opportunity to win games we try and take that and we give ourselves the best chance of winning. I think you’ve got to weigh things up to be quite measured out and have a good sense of things out there and not go into it with too many preconceived ideas. That was the call we made at Headingley and unfortunately, we were on the wrong side of it but I think that’s the best way for us to move forward, we want to be positive and we want to look win when we can and we will try and continue to do that as much as we can.