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Jason Roy unfazed by England's 'frightening' white-ball options

Opener says he is mentally and physically refreshed after tough home season and ready for action

Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller
Jason Roy looks on  •  Getty Images

Jason Roy looks on  •  Getty Images

It's tough at the top, as Jason Roy knows only too well after a tricky summer in England's white-ball bubble, and it's only set to get tougher still in the build-up to next year's T20 World Cup, given what he describes as the "frightening" array of talent lining up to challenge for a starting berth in the format.
However, after withdrawing from the recent IPL to get himself mentally and physically prepared for the year ahead, Roy has declared himself refreshed and ready to return to the fray, and says that his only focus is on winning the series against South Africa, rather than worrying about whether his place in the side is under threat.
"It's mad, the amount of batters is quite frightening (battling) for our top six or top seven," Roy said during a Zoom call from South Africa. "It's a great position to be in. I'm not fussed who I open with, whether I open, or what dynamics they go with, but it's a good position leading into a World Cup.
"Sam Billings touched on it the other day, about it being one of the hardest sports teams to infiltrate," he added. "The amount of players out here - Tom Banton and Tom Helm sitting here as reserves … it's a beautiful position to be in, we are spoilt for choice."
That wealth of options is no luxury when you are the incumbent, however, and Roy recognises he will be under some scrutiny this week after a fallow run of scores in the summer. He managed just 49 runs in six ODIs against Ireland and Australia, with a side strain in between whiles ruling him out of the T20I leg of the summer.
But at the age of 30, and having thrived in the pressure of England's build-up to the 50-over World Cup, he's confident of getting into the right head-space to succeed in the coming weeks.
"Playing for places is quite a hard thing to do," Roy said. "You've got to concentrate as an individual on the next performance. If there's players on this tour who are like 'I need to play for my place' then that's not what we're here to do. We're here to win the series. Some players will be feeling the pressure but you've just got to go out there and express yourself in T20."
Speaking to PA earlier in the week, Chris Silverwood, England's head coach, appeared to confirm that Roy and Jos Buttler would resume their status as England's first-choice openers for Friday's opening fixture at Newlands, but the competition for a top-order berth is intense.
Jonny Bairstow and Dawid Malan, the world's top-ranked T20I batsman, are also in the running for an opener's slot, as well as Banton, who deputised for Roy in the summer but is only a reserve batsman for this trip. And while Ben Stokes and Sam Curran are more likely to feature in the middle order than the top, both of them opened with notable results for Rajasthan and CSK in the IPL last month.
"I would 100% be lying if I said you were not under pressure for your place," Roy said. "With the amount of talent that is around us, there is not one person, everyone is getting pushed to their limits. No one can rest on their laurels. It's one of those amazing squads. But I have got to do what I have got to do, right? I have got to get myself physically fit, mentally fit and then I've got to score some runs. It's as simple as that."
Such were the reasons why Roy opted to withdraw from his IPL deal with Delhi Capitals, after a disjointed English summer in which his rhythm as a batsman never quite came together, even though he played a strong hand in Surrey's late-season run to the final of the T20 Blast.
"It was a mixture of a few things," Roy said. "Physically and mentally I probably wasn't where I wanted to be at that stage, especially going into quite a big year and a half. The decision wasn't taken lightly but, due to the amount of bubbles we've been in, what's to come up and the uncertainty over what's to come, it was the right decision.
"I'm feeling the benefits. We've had a good week here, quite a few training sessions," he added. "I've put my hand up to face quite a lot of our bowlers at all the net sessions, to get myself in a good place to play.
"The best thing is I'm really excited for my cricket. I'm excited for my training, excited to keep learning, so it's a good place for me mentally. Not having game-time is something, but being mentally refreshed is just as important."
South Africa, however, is just the starting point for Roy in his push towards the goal of the T20 World Cup. He has also committed to a full stint with Perth Scorchers at this year's Big Bash - including the likelihood of spending Christmas Day in quarantine ahead of his opening fixture on December 27 - before England's planned but un-finalised trips to India and Sri Lanka in the new year.
"The fact that I hadn't played much cricket during the summer, and I chose to opt out of the IPL, meant [the BBL] was a bit of a no-brainer for me and my family," he said. "It's a big 12 months of me getting fully prepared with my batting. Mentally and physically, I am in one of the best places I have been. Now it's just a case of getting my runs on the board, and as much cricket as possible between now and the World Cup."
"We know how tense these tournaments are, we have played in a World Cup final in T20s before," he added. "We know the pathway to that is very physically and mentally demanding. We know what we are in for. Now it's a case of going out and having some fun."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @miller_cricket