Jason Roy spoke candidly of his pride at battling through self-doubt caused by an “avalanche of s***” after ending a prolonged dry spell with a trademark belligerent century for England.
Roy has for so long been England’s pacesetter at the top of the order and often instrumental in their successes, none greater than when he returned from injury to inspire the side to 2019 World Cup glory.
But after excelling in last winter’s Pakistan Super League, his form nosedived in the English summer, both internationally and domestically, to the extent he was omitted from England’s T20 World Cup squad.
Roy then lost his central contract and was downgraded to an incremental deal while his figures in this month’s SA20 painted a bleak picture as he averaged just 12.5 for Paarl Royals in eight innings.
He felt he had turned a corner after some frank conversations with Jos Buttler and rewarded the England captain’s faith by peeling off 113 from 91 balls in a 27-run defeat by South Africa in the first ODI.
“It was like an avalanche of s*** things happening over and over again,” said Roy. “You start doubting yourself as a player, thinking people have forgotten about you even though you’ve played a huge amount of cricket, start doubting yourself as a guy, becoming reserved, which is just not me.
“Mentally overcoming a lot of doubts and thoughts that I had in my head towards the latter part of last year, that’s probably the proudest I’ve been of myself.
“I’ve gone out there and just enjoyed myself, tried to impose myself which I don’t think I’ve done over a period of time so it was a nice feeling to go out there and just be myself: chew on some gum, give it the full bravado, say a few things to the opposition, get in the fight a bit and it was a very proud moment.
“My motivation is always going to be there, I’m never a guy who’s going to roll over. That’s why, after the year I had, not pushing myself as much as I should have, it’s good to see that I’ve still got a bit of fight.”
Being left out of England’s T20 World Cup winning campaign last autumn was a “huge hammer blow” for Roy, who credited the support of his wife Elle for keeping him “level-headed” through low moments.
Roy has worked with Surrey psychologist Dr Andrea Furst and it did not go unnoticed his Bloemfontein innings came a day after England great Kevin Pietersen had a pep talk with the squad at Mangaung Oval.
“We spoke about being free, not worrying about the outcome, just playing my game,” Roy said. “The big thing for me the night before was to go out on my own terms.
“How do I want to be remembered? As a guy who had a great career, smacked it everywhere, then all of a sudden had a year or whatever it’s been of crap, and a completely different player?
“Or as a guy who went out there and attacked the bowlers? Fair enough if I got out, but I got out on my terms. That has helped my psyche.”
Roy, who pushed his ODI average back above 40 on Friday, is well aware he cannot afford to rest on his laurels as there is plenty of competition for his place ahead of England’s defence of their World Cup crown in India this year.
Surrey team-mate Will Jacks and Lancashire’s Phil Salt have been mentioned as possible replacements in recent weeks – and while Roy was uneasy about the speculation at first, he now embraces the challenge.
“Being where I was at mentally, and the lads tearing it apart, that wasn’t easy at first, but then you realise that that was me once upon a time,” he added.
“The initial feeling was, ‘oh s***, these guys are overtaking me’. But then it’s, ‘pull your head in. You’ve had a great career, you are playing well, if it stops tomorrow, I have had a load of fun’.
“Being happy, enjoying other people’s success, giving back and being happy is a huge part of your own individual success.”
England are likely to rest Jofra Archer in Sunday’s penultimate ODI at the same venue given the close proximity of the games to each other. Chris Woakes and Reece Topley seem set to feature.