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That he was out drinking with senior players and was targeted by David Warner's misfiring aim proves Joe Root is firmly a part of Team England
June 12, 2013
Features : The butterfly effect
Features : Australia's discipline problem runs deep
Features : Batting needs to do justice to bowling attack
Preview : England target semi-final berth
Features : Time for Warner to learn the hard way
News : Warner dropped after punch at Root
Matches: England v Sri Lanka at The Oval
Series/Tournaments: ICC Champions Trophy
It was always likely that the first blows of an Ashes year would be thrown in Birmingham over the weekend, but few could have predicted England would have prevailed so overwhelmingly.
It was not just a comfortable victory in the Champions Trophy. It was not just the faintly ridiculous image of David Warner, the Australian opener, reacting so humourlessly to a novelty wig that he threw an unprovoked punch at an England player so fresh-faced and innocent looking that it was hard to avoid the vision of Warner as a buffoon who can't handle his drink or the pressures of international cricket. And it was not just that Warner had done it so hopelessly. Warner, it seems, doesn't just float like a butterfly, he stings and bats like one, too.
It was not even that "Wig-gate" is a PR disaster for Australia. While the England camp have handled the incident with the ease of a Mitchell Johnson half-volley on leg stump - the perfectly worded statement from the ECB made their stance clear: they were innocent, the matter was closed and Australia have a mess to resolve.
No, perhaps the most pleasing aspect from an England perspective is that is underlines Joe Root's position at the heart of the England team.
The Malvolios among us may disagree, but it bodes well for England that Root was out with his team-mates celebrating a victory. There were times on the tour to India when Root looked somewhat ill at ease in the England set-up; a man apart, spending his time at the party in the kitchen.
But all that changed after his smooth debut in Nagpur. It wasn't that the England squad were any more welcoming - that had never been an issue - more that Root finally knew he belonged in that company. He has grown in stature with every performance since. News that he is comfortable and popular enough to socialise with older colleagues should be welcomed. It is, in part, in such moments that bonding takes place and it is, in part, such moments that help young men mature and develop.
England's players were not disregarding any curfew, they had not over-indulged and they did not provoke or retaliate. Neither side, or third-party witnesses, refute any of that. Indeed, Root's decision not to involve the police might be considered rather magnanimous. There is surely a time to allow sportsmen the opportunity to enjoy the sort of evening out that young men their age take for granted. Those who suggest that the midst of a major tournament may not be that time should take a look at England's schedule: they are pretty much always on the brink of or in the midst of another major series.
Alastair Cook made it clear he had no issues with the players enjoying a night out "within certain parameters we set as a team".
|Steven Finn is understood to have been understandably disappointed to be dropped against Australia but sometimes a little setback is just the stimulus required to encourage improvement.|
"We didn't have training for a couple of days," Cook said. "If there's a back-to-back game it's a very different issue. We had a couple of days off and then a couple of days' training. You don't often get those positions in a tournament and it's very important that sometimes you do let your hair down because to celebrate wins also builds team spirit.
"We've investigated the matter and we believe we haven't done anything wrong. Clearly our conduct, as international players, is vitally important. We are aware of the position we hold and how lucky and responsible we are to be wearing the England shirt. It's a matter which we've taken seriously."
But Root's central role within the England team extends far beyond the social. Not only has he nailed down a place in the Test side, but he has done a pretty decent job of securing a place in the ODI team too. His ability to adapt as a middle-order batsman has been the most noticeable aspect of his cricket, but his developing spin bowling has added a depth to the side that could prove crucial before the end of the Champions Trophy.
With the pitches in this event providing far more help to spin bowlers than most had anticipated, the balance of England's side has had to alter. The plan to field five specialist bowlers - four seamers and a spinner - has been shelved and instead England have selected allrounder Ravi Bopara with a view to strengthening and emboldening the batting. Bopara's latest comeback has been quietly impressive.
There must now be a temptation to play both Graeme Swann, now recovered from his back injury, and James Tredwell alongside just two specialist seamers. The two offspinners would surely enjoy the conditions. But that might also lengthen England's tail and reduce their ability to damage opposition with their seamers' ability to reverse swing the white ball.
Root may well be the solution. He has taken important wickets in the last couple of ODIs and is quickly emerging as a spinner who can be entrusted with a meaningful number of overs in such conditions. He is not anywhere near the class of Tredwell as yet, but he is a decent compromise to the balance problem and, alongside Bopara, might now be considered something of an allrounder.
With the sides using a new pitch against Sri Lanka at The Oval, it seems unlikely there will be the extravagant assistance available for spinners we have seen elsewhere, so England may well resist the temptation to play Tredwell, Root and Swann if all 15 of their squad are available.
But that may not be the case. With Tim Bresnan's wife now well overdue with their child, his availability could become an issue at any moment. Both Tredwell and Steven Finn are potential replacements for Bresnan, with Finn the more likely in the conditions expected at The Oval.
Finn is understood to have been understandably disappointed to be dropped against Australia but that is not such a bad thing. Sometimes a little setback is just the stimulus required to encourage improvement. Besides, such competition for places is valuable. After a year of coasting, Stuart Broad is performing with pleasing intensity.
It is pleasing, too, that England have demonstrated something of a Plan B. Their original plans for the tournament - to damage their opposition with the new ball - may have had to change after it became apparent the white balls will offer little conventional swing, but the ability to reverse swing the ball has proved valuable. The debate will rage about England's strategy with the bat but, if England beat Sri Lanka, they are in the semi-finals.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: George Dobell
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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