Jason Roy says he would embrace the “strange” feeling of playing cricket behind closed doors again if that’s what it takes for the sport to return in England later in the summer.
Roy batted at an empty ground in Karachi in February while representing Quetta Gladiators in this year’s Pakistan Super League due to the coronavirus pandemic, before being one of a group of English players to leave the tournament early.
The 29-year-old and his fellow players spent plenty of time in isolation while in Pakistan, principally due to safety fears before the pandemic spread, and said that at times he found life equally as odd batting against Karachi Kings at an empty National Stadium.
“There was no atmosphere – it was as simple as that, to be honest,” said the Surrey batsman.
“It was a very strange feeling. I think that as a batsman I’m used to with the bowler running in, it being relatively quiet – you learn to block out the crowd – but as soon as that ball is done you hear the crowd going absolutely beserk.
“Over there, when that was the case, it was just like dead silence – it was the strangest thing. You could hear your mate calling for ones and twos. You don’t have to work on body language. It was quite strange and quite hard to get up for but it was just something that we knew we had to deal with.”
All professional cricket in England and Wales is currently postponed until at least July 1 and play will not return until the ECB is able to formulate a post-lockdown strategy in partnership with the Government that doesn’t compromise player or spectator safety.
That may mean games would have to take place in bio-secure environments at grounds, like the Ageas Bowl and Old Trafford, that have an hotel on site and without fans present.
“I’m more than happy to play behind closed doors [in England],” said Roy. “I just want to play some cricket, to be honest. For us to be able to go out and play some cricket would be an incredible feeling – it feels weird. I feel like a kid again but I guess we are governed by the Government. There are way bigger things going on.”
Roy experienced an “absolutely ridiculous” 2019 – winning the Cricket World Cup on home turf, with his throw from the deep securing the run out of New Zealand’s Martin Guptill to secure England’s triumph, before making his Test debut against Ireland only to be dropped after four Ashes Tests with an overall average of 18.70 from 10 knocks.
While he concedes that his shot at opening in five-day cricket has gone for now – Rory Burns and Dom Sibley stepping up in South Africa this winter, before Keaton Jennings was called-up for the tour of Sri Lanka before the series was postponed – his desire to retain a Test place in the middle-order remains unabated.
“I think the boys have got that [opening spot] covered pretty well now – I think they’ve found a couple of nice players to fill that spot,” said Roy.
“I’ve worked very, very hard to try and crack the nut in Test cricket and for it to get taken away from me that quickly – obviously after a couple of bad scores – was really heart-breaking, so there’s no doubt in my mind that I’m going to be trying my hardest to try and get back into the side and try to prove myself wrong, more than anything.
“Scoring a weight of runs in white-ball cricket and then not being able to do that in Test cricket was upsetting for me because I really felt like I could. I still feel like I can but I just need to fight for my position again and get back in there and prove to myself that I can actually do it.”
A blistering 70 off just 38 balls in February’s first T20 against South Africa was a brutal reminder of Roy’s attacking prowess in the shortest format of the game, which makes the current uncertainty about whether the ICC World Twenty20 will go ahead later in the year all the tougher to bear.
“I’ve just been concentrating on the now, to be honest, but if players aren’t able to prepare in the right way or get over to Australia safely then it makes sense to postpone it.
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