'We've come a long way since 2015' - Jason Roy epitomises England's journey from zeroes to heroes

Opener says finding a way in the face of adversity is a must in international cricket

Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller
Jason Roy carves one through the off side  •  Getty Images

Jason Roy carves one through the off side  •  Getty Images

0.1 starts over the wicket, ambles in and pitches it up outside off... and Roy carves it to backward point first ball! … well, England's plan was to be more attacking...
And that was how ESPNcricinfo's ball-by-ball commentary recorded the dawn of England's brave new world, in June 2015: their first completed ODI since the traumas of that year's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
As if to prove that blips and setbacks are as much as part of the road to triumph as the moments of glory, the newest batsman in their set-up got off to, literally, the worst possible start to his international career.
"I actually debuted in Ireland but it was a rained-off game," said Jason Roy. "But, for my first actual innings, I walked out there all prepped, all ready, done all my research. First ball, Trent Boult swings it in, nice straight, juicy half volley, fourth stump, I was like 'decent' … straight to point.
"I was like, 'no way, this can not be happening'. I felt like a bus had hit me. But we've come a long way since then."
England came a long way on that day alone, as it happens. With Joe Root and Jos Buttler making centuries in the first flourishing of the team's belligerent new approach, New Zealand's bowlers were carted for 408 for 9, the first 400-plus total in the team's history, but a score that they have since surpassed on three occasions.
And perhaps as a consequence of that mildly traumatic beginning, no player better epitomises the journey from zeroes to potential heroes that England's ODI team has been making in the course of the past four years.
Most importantly, Roy was given a licence to fail by the team management, in a bid to free him up to succeed, and the dividends are plain for all to see on the eve of the 2019 World Cup.
"It's about finding a way in international cricket.," he said. "And [Eoin] Morgan gave me the opportunity to do so, to find a way in international cricket to score big runs.
"He just said, 'You're going to play. We love what you are about, we love the way you play your cricket. And good luck.'
"It was very simple. Very simple from him. And I was like 'cool, focus on my second game'. I actually did not do very well that series. I can't remember what my top score was [39 from 37 balls, three days later at The Oval], but they stuck by me. I trained my arse off and worked hard."
Roy was named Player of the Series in the recent 4-0 victory over Pakistan, after racking up scores of 87, 76 and 114 in his three appearances - the latter coming after a sleepless and worrisome night, when his two-month-old daughter Everly had to be taken to hospital.
It would have been fully understandable for Roy to pull out of the contest in such circumstances, but amid the concern (now, thankfully, abated) he recognised the value of playing on through the anxiety, to prepare his mind for the prospect of a similar setback in the course of the coming seven weeks.
"Things get thrown your way," he said. "That's why I played the other day when my little one was ill. Because I wanted to make sure that if there was a World Cup game on, I would be able to replicate it.
"If that happened before a World Cup game there wouldn't be any [excuse] ... I'd 100% play and I'd have to deal with it. That's all part of professional sport and being who we are we have got to overcome little speed bumps.
"Not everything is going to be perfect, we are not going to have the perfect games but we have to find ways when we do have those imperfect games to come out on top, definitely."
That's been as true for the squad as a whole as for Roy individually. Despite completing, in Roy's words, "probably the best prep we could have had", there have nevertheless been issues to overcome in the final build-up - not least the disruption caused by Alex Hales' expulsion from the squad for recreational drug use - while Roy himself had to overcome back and hamstring issues early in the season that interrupted his Royal London campaign with Surrey.
"We've definitely had a lot of blips in the last year," he said. "But the way that we have overcome them and the way that we have bounced back from them all has always been outstanding. I think that that is going to stand us in great stead for the World Cup."
On the subject of his own injury, which first flared up in the Caribbean, Roy admitted he had been nervous coming back into the team after just three brief innings for Surrey in April. But he trusted his training to get him back up to speed as quickly as possible.
"I think the main case [for me] was mentally being switched on. Going through an injury is never nice … but I knew that my batting was going to be okay, just because I had been training a lot in the nets and I felt good.
"Injuries can reoccur but I've got all my training in place to make sure that there is less of a chance of that happening. But they are well and truly in the back of my mind and I'm not too worried about them at all."
Roy was speaking at the New Balance launch of England's team kit, an event that brought home the fact that the World Cup is just around the corner - not least given that it took place on the same day as the final 15-man squad was unveiled by the selectors at Lord's. And while he had sympathy for David Willey and Joe Denly, the two notable omissions from the party, he was happy to be able to fix his eyes firmly on what is to come.
"I think it's good just to get the squad together, to get the WhatsApp group set up and stuff like that." said Roy. "It's obviously heartbreaking for a couple of the players who have missed out but that just shows you how strong and how deep our squad is.
"We've been playing very, very good cricket for the last four years. Since the last World Cup, we've come together extremely well. And just because we have become No.1, we haven't got too big for our boots or we haven't got giddy, or we haven't stopped working as hard. We haven't stalled."

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