Eoin Morgan took me aside at a training session before the England ODI team’s first practice match a fortnight ago and asked me to be his vice-captain for this series against Ireland, which starts on Thursday. I have been absolutely buzzing about it ever since.
People might think phrases like “it being an honour” are just trotted out at times like this but it genuinely is. It means a huge amount to me and especially from a captain like Morgs. Growing up playing cricket I never thought I’d one day be able to say I was vice-captain of my country and I’ve had a lot of messages of support.
More than anything it is great to feel so valued. Jos Buttler is usually vice-captain and is with the Test team right now. But Morgs still had a lot of options in this one-day squad, with regulars such as Jonny Bairstow and Jason Roy, or even guys coming in like James Vince and Sam Billings who captain their counties.
Captaincy at Worcestershire is something I’ve always enjoyed and we’ve had a bit of success along the way. If Morgs misses a game for some reason, I would feel at ease leading the team. This series is about new faces but, crucially, staying true to the brand of cricket we’ve built over the past few years.
That is the message from Morgs to the squad as a whole: if you come into the team, you have to play for the team. It’s not about individuals. We’re not standing still here either, we want to continue to develop our style of play and we know it will lead to more wins.
The T20 World Cup has been pushed back 12 months but it gives us more time to work on this and, though 50-over is a different format, it all feeds into our short-form cricket. Losing the T20 final in 2016, even having gone on to lift the 50-over World Cup last summer, is something we want to put right next year, too.
It’s tricky to speak with total certainty about future events when we don’t know how the pandemic will play out, be it a second spike or something else. But life in the England bubble this summer has actually been pretty good, personally, and not as daunting as it sounded when we were first told about it.
And there are benefits, too. Guys have built up a strong bond during the time together and the conversations are a bit more in-depth. The preparation time has been excellent, too, a chance to really assess your game and where you want to take it, rather than bouncing from series to series or tour to tour.
After the red-ball warm-up match, when Ben Stokes brought me on to bowl quite late in the first innings, I knew I was unlikely to be picked for the West Indies Test series. But it was just good to be back playing with the lads and I hope to play some first-class cricket for Worcestershire between our one-day international series.
Moving over to the one-day bubble has been great. Not being able to leave the ground is pretty strange, admittedly. Adil Rashid and I normally like to visit friends and family in whatever city where we are playing our cricket, which we can’t do now. And Jofra Archer made headlines for popping home before the second Test.
Jof is a good friend of mine and even though we speak a lot, it was tough to read he was struggling a bit during that period. My advice is always that tough times pass and are followed by calm, during which you can reflect and learn. And it has been a rollercoaster 12 months for him.
He is a very active person on social media and while I moved away from it a while back, I would never tell anyone to do the same. But it has to be said, I have seen some of the messages he has received and they are absolutely horrendous.
This isn’t about being thick-skinned. No one should have to tolerate racism. And I think people need calling out here. Maybe they should make it mandatory that social media accounts have names and faces on them. We should know who is saying these things.
In terms of messages that criticise your cricket, I have been through a bit of that and over time you realise that quite often the people just don’t have a Scooby about the sport. And when it comes to Jofra, we are talking about a potential superstar here.
He is only nine Tests into his England career, already has three five-wicket hauls and there is so much more to come. He is a fast learner and after 15 Tests, 20 Tests, 30 Tests he will have grown and grown into the five-day game. Trust me, he’s going to be amazing.