England batsman Rory Burns focused on recovering from freak injury

‘I won’t play football again while I’m a cricketer!’ England opener Rory Burns focused on recovering from freak injury which cost him his Test spot

  • Burns has decided to hang up the football boots until his cricket days are done
  • England scrapped football as a warm-up after he suffered his freak injury
  • He is yet to pick up a bat since the Cape Town kickabout on January 2 
  • Burns has received an apology from Joe Root for his part in the injury 

For a man who is likely to be out for four months owing to a freak injury suffered playing football before a Test, Rory Burns is philosophical.

‘It’s a positive thing for English cricket,’ the opener says. He may not be wrong.

In practice before England took on South Africa in the shadow of Table Mountain last month, Burns lost his place at the top of the order and triggered headlines that hurt almost as much as his left ankle. The video went viral. Showing a touch Johan Cruyff would have been proud of, the Surrey man took a hoofed ball out of the sky and turned elegantly towards goal.

Rory Burns has decided to hang up the football boots until his cricket days are done

Gliding across the turf, Burns was about to pull the trigger when there appeared to be a nudge from Joe Root, although VAR would have needed to get involved. The rest is history. ‘You might have to watch the video to decipher (if he made contact), but it was more my studs getting caught in the turf,’ explains Burns, 29.

The full extent of what had happened did not become clear until the results of scans. ‘The physio was like, “It’s pretty serious — we need to send you back ASAP for surgery”.’ Pretty serious indeed. Burns had suffered a grade three tear of the inside ligaments and another which runs down the leg.

‘A steady ding, to be fair,’ is how he describes it. Given Jonny Bairstow had put himself out of two Tests with an injury picked up playing football in 2018; given many had wondered out loud about the merits of playing it; and given Burns had top-scored in the first Test at Centurion, the backlash was inevitable.

England scrapped playing football as a warm-up after Burns suffered his freak injury

He did however, escape a telling off from his father, who had flown to South Africa and had tickets for all five days at Newlands. ‘He was being hosted by Gareth Batty, so he had a decent time on the Pinotage,’ says Burns.

Last year, England director of cricket Ashley Giles told Root he thought playing football was too dangerous. Following the injury to Burns, it has unsurprisingly been shown the red card. ‘It probably took something like this to re-evaluate it,’ says Burns. ‘It’s taken four months out of my career. And I was at a stage where I was playing quite nicely.

‘It was an avoidable setback and when something is avoidable you re-evaluate whether you want to waste your time doing four months in a gym rehabbing or being on a plane to Sri Lanka.’

Burns is yet to pick up a bat since the Cape Town training ground kickabout on January 2

Has he had any grief from his team-mates for ruining their fun? ‘Not really. There’s been a bit of gentle ribbing but everyone is understanding — it could have been them.’

Burns, speaking at a Professional Cricketers’ Association rookie camp at a snowy Edgbaston, has received an apology from Root for his part in the injury. 

On the subject of his captain, there had been talk the Surrey skipper may take over England duties. Burns is, however, not looking past the incumbent. ‘Too much responsibility is on the captain to make a team perform well,’ he says. ‘Within a team you need individual units and the whole team to be working well at the same time.

Burns has received an apology from England captain Joe Root for his part in the injury

‘Joe is developing as a captain while being England’s best batsman, so there needs to be leeway in terms of how he is building his side; how he is learning his skills.

‘At the moment it’s not realistic (for me to consider the captaincy) because I don’t think there is a position there to talk about. The guys in the dressing room all back Rooty because he is the right man for the job and I am no different.’

Instead, Burns’s focus is on getting fit. He has not picked up a bat since the accident, but is hoping to when Surrey visit Dubai next month on a pre-season trip. One thing is certain, though: there will be no football. ‘I won’t play again while I’m a professional cricketer,’ he adds.

Football’s loss may well be England cricket’s gain.

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