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Harry Brook replaces Jason Roy in England World Cup squad – and why it is the right call

England's Harry Brook plays a shot off the bowling of New Zealand's Rachin Ravindra during the One Day International cricket match at Lord's

England's Harry Brook plays a shot off the bowling of New Zealand's Rachin Ravindra during the One Day International cricket match at Lord's

Harry Brook is seen as England’s coming man in all formats – AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth

England have axed Jason Roy, one of the heroes of 2019, from their final 15-man squad for next month’s World Cup defence, with Harry Brook drafted in.

When Ben Stokes came out of retirement last month, Brook was left out of England’s provisional World Cup squad, but his form and Roy’s lack of fitness have seen a change of heart. England had until Sep 28 to adjust the initial squad, which otherwise remains unchanged.

History has repeated itself for Roy, who was dropped on the eve of last year’s T20 World Cup (which England went on to win) after a poor run of form. As he remains out of contention in T20 cricket and a changing of the guard is anticipated in one-day internationals after the World Cup, this decision may end a fine international career. He has played 116 ODIs for England, averaging a tick under 40 and striking at 105.5.

Roy is, in many senses, extremely unfortunate. Not only does he have a terrific individual record, but his opening partnership with Jonny Bairstow is England’s greatest in ODI cricket, and he made hundreds in his two most recent ODI series in Bangladesh and South Africa earlier this year. At the 2019 World Cup, he was a standard bearer for England at the top of the order; when he was out injured, the campaign veered off course, but when he returned they won the title.

But three issues led to Roy’s demise. First, was the sensational form of Dawid Malan, whose excellent series against New Zealand means he demands selection alongside Bairstow at the World Cup. Malan averages 61.5 in 21 ODIs, and has a century in each of his last five series. That he is left-handed is helpful for the balance of England’s top order.

With Malan cemented at the top of the order, Roy’s best hope was to be England’s spare batsman in the squad. But concerns about his fitness, and the fact that he is a specialist opener, conspired against him.

The third factor was the rise of Brook over the past year. He responded to being left out of the provisional squad by producing superb innings in the Hundred and for England’s T20 series and, while his form tailed off in the ODI series, he is able to cover every position from opener to No 7 if required by England. Brook is England’s coming man in all formats, even if he has a modest record in his short ODI career (he has just one half-century in six innings).

England’s national selector Luke Wright said: “We have selected a squad we are confident can go to India and win the World Cup. We are blessed with an incredibly strong group of white-ball players which was underlined by the performances in the series win against a very good New Zealand team.

“The strength of the group has meant that we have had to make some tough decisions on world-class players with Jason Roy missing out and Harry Brook coming into the squad.”

Brook is due to be part of a second-string England side, captained by Zak Crawley, against Ireland over the next 10 days, but he will be withdrawn so that he can rest before the tournament. A replacement will be announced tomorrow, when Wright is due to further explain England’s squad, and add detail about the three injury reserves they are able to take to the tournament.

It has been a messy period of uncertainty for England’s players, with those in last month’s provisional squad told they were going to the World Cup, only for Brook’s form to force the selectors to reconsider. Roy, finally, is the fall guy.

Jofra Archer, meanwhile, is set to travel to India to continue his rehabilitation from a stress fracture of the elbow. England will confirm on Monday whether he is one of their three official travelling reserves that could be drafted in for an injured player during the tournament.

England World Cup squad: Jos Buttler (Lancashire – captain), Moeen Ali (Warwickshire), Gus Atkinson (Surrey), Jonny Bairstow (Yorkshire), Harry Brook (Yorkshire), Sam Curran (Surrey), Liam Livingstone (Lancashire), Dawid Malan (Yorkshire), Adil Rashid (Yorkshire), Joe Root (Yorkshire), Ben Stokes (Durham), Reece Topley (Surrey), David Willey (Northamptonshire), Mark Wood (Durham), Chris Woakes (Warwickshire).

Brook’s return is the right call – it had to be done

It had to be done. Jason Roy was a critical force in England’s World Cup campaign of 2019, his fearless panache setting the whole tone at the top of the order, but vulnerability has set in, in his back if not his batting, and that is no sort of lead.

For a reserve batsman – and that, in initial theory, is what Harry Brook will be – it makes complete sense to bring in younger blood. Jonny Bairstow and Dawid Malan have booked themselves in as the opening pair, and Joe Root at No 3 for all his recent struggles to time the ball. As Ben Stokes, as a specialist batsman, and Jos Buttler are cemented in at four and five, there is no scope for another batsman as six bowlers are always required in Asia.

Where Brook can make a difference from the outset, even if he is a substitute and not in the regular side, is as a fielder. There are no bad fielders in this England squad, but there is only one “gun-fielder” now that Bairstow’s mobility has been reduced by his leg injury, and that is Stokes. He can lie deep at mid-on or mid-off in the early overs, daring the batsman to take a single, then hurtle round the boundary in the latter stages.

A team that is going to win the trophy in Asia could, however, do with a top-class fielder on both sides of the wicket. Eoin Morgan used to patrol one side, either at extra-cover or midwicket. Brook has the physical attributes to make himself into Morgan’s replacement, but has yet to make a real impact as an England fielder: there will be an indication of his appetite for improvement as a batsman, to seal his greatness, when he works at fielding practice during this World Cup and tries to force his way into the playing XI.

Fielding’s value in 50-over cricket was yet again illustrated by Leicestershire when they defeated Hampshire in the Metro Bank One-day Cup final by the merest margin of two runs. The winners had a threadbare attack yet their fielders supported them every inch of the way for 50 overs. There was one slight misfield, which gave away one run, but that was all – and it made the difference.

Otherwise this England squad appears to have all the attributes to retain their title: three left-arm seamers are gold-dust, at the start and end of an innings; two-and-a-half spinners plus Root; batsmen who are capable of scoring big hundreds, with Stokes having just raised the standard with his 182 against New Zealand; and plenty of bowlers who can bat so that Reece Topley is the only non-contributor.

And embedded within the playing XI is a reserve opener, other than Brook, who has yet to star in any international format at the top of the order. Moeen Ali has opened in 21 one-day internationals and has even hit a hundred in Asia (Sri Lanka to be precise in 2014) in this position. The boxes are ticked, eventualities are catered for, although England can do nothing to offset India’s home advantage.

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