Smiling with joy with Piers Morgan is a surefire way to charm Oprobrium and social media was quick to condemn it.
For many, it felt like the ultimate betrayal. No one is more loved in Yorkshire cricket than Root, but there was a sudden realization that this love could be unrequited; The route will largely be making an annual trek to the Alfred Dunhill Pro-Am tournament, exchanging four days of championship cricket for four Scottish golf courses, a venue for glamorous company and a nice payday.
It gets to them all in the end.
Certainly, some of the anger is justified if the Championship is to live up to its reputation as a great, historic tournament that deserves continued attention. Yorkshire, as in all 18 counties, nurtures talent from childhood in a system based on a sense of community. Then once they reach fame and fortune, blow me away, each one of them becomes a naked bourgeoisie, seduced by the $$ signs and the place of celebrity. County cricket tends to be non-refundable and unsophisticated.
As franchise tournaments take hold around the world, and since the sport has never been more in flux, holders of county cricket have never felt more strongly that the world is against them. His madness is understandable. And Root – the friendly, gentlemanly gentleman who – was in his sight.
Except whether criticism should be silenced? Root is signed to England. Essentially from the moment his country took over as his employer, he was relocated from Yorkshire and now lives in a different world. His annual ECB salary has long exceeded £1 million. In addition, there are sponsorship deals and, theoretically, opportunities for short-form cricket in franchise T20 leagues. Believe it or not, his life has moved on.
But he occasionally plays for Yorkshire, whenever he needs practice before another international heat, is unfailingly humble, tries his best while there and so does Yorkshire’s supporters, who appear at every Headingley Test. Proud to have them as one of ours, can never quite let go, especially when relegation is at stake. “Root, Brooke, Bairstow,” he chuckled about his absence this week at Headingley, as Gloucestershire, bottom of the table, had one of the weakest top sixes in Yorkshire history. “Root, Brooke, Bairstow.” But only Root was playing golf.
Many of us would love a nice liberal, progressive world, where elections are not based solely on money or celebrity. Many of us find invaluable value in a professional cricket set-up that has communal behavior at its core. It would be nice to think that county cricketers had a sense of common good, and Root could have gone against the trend. Stuart Broad, eventually, left for Nottinghamshire as they won the Second Division championship. Among all the players in England, his commitment to his county cannot be denied.
But you’d be hard pressed to find a more money-focused bunch than the England cricket dressing room, as the intake is essentially decent. money is unconditionally of professional players, and the more they get, the more they become. It’s naive at best to imagine otherwise. These players live in fear of a career-threatening injury or catastrophic loss of form. County cricket is just a safety net to which they can one day return.
Sympathetic references to “non-stop international schedules” don’t please everyone. Root has not played for three weeks and is unlikely to do so again until early December. The mental and physical exhaustion of top-level sport is no defense against a player’s desire to show a sense of belonging, even a sense of gratitude. But those who talk about the capacity gap between county cricket and the international game tell only half the story – they are very different worlds now.
“We know Root’s decision making isn’t always great, for the time he was England captain for many years,” was one of the more mild-mannered Twitter jibes.
But The Root is the latest example of the disease of the professional club circuit. There have been times this summer when the ECB has dropped ODI and Test teams from the county schedule at the same time. At the start of the season in April, at the peak of the IPL, and after a winter of franchise cricket, almost thirty The fast bowlers were missing. The final stages of the Blast are not ring-fenced (nor even properly promoted), and neither is the climax of the championship. And, even after that, the ECB still demands high standards. At the moment, for all the governing body’s annual share of revenue, it is a one-way street.
Here is another irony. There is some merit in calling for additional preparation time to increase intensity, but that notion has long been abandoned on the international circuit, where games come quicker and faster. The extra preparation time would be just another day at the golf course or at the sponsors’ event; Rest and recovery will recharge the battery in time for a payday in an out-of-season franchise tournament.
County sport has a duty to raise the standards for the benefit of England. It should also be sensitive to the kind of cricket that players want to play and not just exist as a convenient backdrop for spectators who only want matches on tap. But it should first listen to the players who want to play county cricket and those who want to watch it. If one chooses to spend half the summer in the tinpot tournament in the United Arab Emirates, so be it.
Root’s golf picture is reminiscent of this. without any reason? Pucca. A simple fact of life? O also. But as a symbol of the changing times of English cricket, it raises many questions which are yet to be answered by English cricket.
David Hopes writes for ESPNcricinfo on county cricket @davidkhopps