Joe Root puts name forward for IPL auction after lengthy T20 absence
Former Test captain hopes sighter of Indian conditions could help 50-over World Cup plans
Joe Root will enter the upcoming IPL auction on December 23 in a bid to break into the competition for the first time in his career.
A combination of international commitments and a five-year tenure as England Test captain have restricted Root's opportunities, both on the T20 franchise circuit and in the format altogether. His only exposure to domestic tournaments outside of the T20 Blast and the Hundred came in 2018-19 with a stint at Sydney Thunder in the Big Bash League.
Root's previous foray into the IPL auction came in 2018 when he went unsold. ESPNcricinfo understands that he appreciates the same might happen this time around, but he has no expectations on salary or destination and would simply like to experience the world's premier T20 competition. He has not played a T20I since making 47 from 42 balls against Pakistan in May 2019, on the eve of the 50-over World Cup.
Root's primary attraction to franchises would be his ability against spin, particularly with the IPL reverting to a home-and-away format in 2023. He also provides a bowling option with his offbreaks, and has often bowled in the powerplay during his sporadic T20 appearances.
One aspect that could work in his favour is the IPL's growing links with English cricket. Lucknow Super Giants head coach Andy Flower worked with Root consistently during a 12-year spell with the ECB and is currently his Trent Rockets coach, while Trevor Bayliss, England's coach from 2015-19, has recently taken over at Punjab Kings. That the current Test coach Brendon McCullum has strong ties with Kolkata Knight Riders, where James Foster is now assistant coach, won't hurt Root's chances of being talked up by the franchise's management. Vikram Solanki, team director at defending champions Gujarat Titans, will be another prominent English presence at the upcoming auction.
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At 31, Root's calendar is a little clearer without the burden of captaincy. After a two-months break, following the summer's final Test against South Africa, he is currently in the UAE where England's men are preparing for their three-Test tour of Pakistan at the start of December.
From there, the next Test engagement is a two-match series against New Zealand in February 2023. There is a chance Root might play a part in the ODIs in South Africa and the three ODIs contained within March's white-ball tour of Bangladesh, ahead of the 50-over World Cup in India later that year, but he is expected to be available for the majority of the IPL season. England's first Test of the 2023 summer, against Ireland at Lord's, begins on June 1.
Speaking to the Mail on Sunday, Root said he hoped a potential IPL gig would go some way to making up for the blind spots he may have developed in the shortest format, given he has only made 11 appearances (for Yorkshire and Trent Rockets) since the start of 2021. Experiencing Indian conditions ahead of the World Cup there in October would be another bonus.
"I have no thoughts or feelings of retirement or slowing down or playing fewer formats," Root said. "If anything, I feel a little bit more freedom with my time. I always used to get rested for the T20s and I feel like I got alienated from the format because I had not played enough of it.
"You can feel like you are getting left behind a little bit. Now, the next couple of years, might be a good time to explore playing a little bit more of that format and see how far I can take that side of my game.
"That is especially valid because of how we are trying to play now as a Test team. Looking at the game through a T20 lens, will that benefit my Test cricket?"
Vithushan Ehantharajah is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo