He may be spearheading England’s one-day renaissance but power-hitting opening batsman Jason Roy concedes that his extracurricular antics were not always befitting of a player craving international acclaim.
South Africa-born Roy was a prominent figure during this summer’s battles against New Zealand and Australia as England took the first tentative steps towards building a prosperous limited-overs future after their latest World Cup flop in March.
The 25-year-old epitomises England’s new uncomplicated and enterprising approach to the shortest forms of the game, skills he will hope to showcase in the upcoming tussles with Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates next month, while a T20 World Cup looms in 2016.
But while the prodigious, if mercurial, talent that earned him a Surrey debut aged 17 has given way to a more consistently dangerous force across all formats, Roy admits that as much maturing has taken place off the field as on it in the intervening years.
“I’ve changed myself around. I was a bit of a loose one when I was a bit younger and starting my career,” Roy told City A.M.
“When I was about 19 or 20 and just getting my first contract, I used to go out before training sessions and I just had to realise that actually it is not the way it should be. It’s just growing up I guess. In the last two years I have grown up a lot.
“I realised that I have to make sure that my off-field behaviour is right because it does have an influence on how you play your cricket and your mind-set. I still enjoy myself and enjoy a beer or two but it’s not as crazy as it was.”
Roy penned a new three-year deal at Surrey last month following a season in which the Kia Oval side secured promotion to Division One of the County Championship, with the stage set for the right-hander to project his red-ball credentials.
“I absolutely have ambitions to play Test cricket. That’s the pinnacle of cricket and to play in a Test match would be a huge honour. Getting to the top is not an easy process, it’s a long road,” he added.
“It comes down to volume of runs. You’ve just got to score runs and get your mind-set switched on to red-ball cricket. It’s 90 per cent mind-set, especially for me.
“It’s about watching that ball. When you start thinking about more than that, you’re in a bit of trouble. It’s such a strange game. Everybody has got their own way of playing. I like to keep it chilled out.”
Explosive and destructive batting is Roy’s default setting. A product of Whitgift School, his breakthrough season came in 2014 when he topped the T20 Blast charts with an average of 48.35, while an unquenchable thirst to dominate the limelight defines his persona.
“I like to play in a side and be a match-winner. That’s what I want to do: win games for whoever I’m playing for – Surrey and England,” said Roy.
“I want to be a match-winner, every game. It keeps it fresh for me as well. I turn up to every match thinking ‘Right, what am I going to do in this game to change it?’ and it helps me.
“If I am not winning games then I feel I have let myself and the team down. It’s a fine line and it’s stressful at times when you don’t do so well but that’s the way I play my cricket. It’s what gets me over the line. I enjoy that pressure.”
Such a mantra is not too dissimilar to that of former Surrey team-mate and England exile Kevin Pietersen, a player Roy has been compared to more times than he cares to recall. Nevertheless, the parallels are obvious.
Pietersen, meanwhile, believes that a number of England’s younger players are reluctant to seek his advice for fear of incurring the wrath of the country’s cricket bosses. Not Roy.
“Everybody wants to be like Kevin Pietersen but I want to be my own version. I want to make my own mark on the game now and be the Jason Roy, not the young KP,” he added.
“But I speak to him whenever I want, insofar as if I want to call him, I will call him. I have no issue with him. He just craves honesty. He doesn’t like to be left in the dark. Once he is left in the dark he will voice his opinion.
“In the dressing room he is brilliant. He’s Kevin Pietersen and often people are like ‘oh my word’ but when it comes to cricket he is very switched on and unbelievable to talk to about the game.”
Pietersen is not the only revered knowledge base Roy has been able to tap into during recent seasons given Surrey’s ability to attract global stars as their overseas player.
“We’ve had Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla, Ricky Ponting, Kevin Pietersen, Kumar Sangakkara, it’s a world team and it has been unbelievable,” said Roy.
“You can take bits from each but they all just keep it so simple. That’s what I’ve gathered from them. They’ve got their way of playing and it’s very simple.”
Their simplicity appears to have rubbed off. He concludes: “I train hard, get myself together, look after myself, play each game as it comes and watch that ball. If it works out, it works out. If it doesn’t, work harder.”
Jason Roy is sponsored by Simpla HR and Lawson Rutter Estate Agents.