Is Joe Root an England captain in the making?
PUBLISHED: 00:00 12 January 2015 | UPDATED: 22:22 28 April 2016
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Martin Pilkington gets the lowdown on the Yorkshire cricket star
Like policemen, they seem to be making Yorkshire cricketing heroes younger these days. Joe Root was born in 1990 yet when asked for his top three moments in the game he can already cite winning the championship for Yorkshire this year, winning the Investec Ashes last year, scoring a century at Lord’s this summer and winning a test series in India. You’re right, that’s four highlights – he’s as greedy for success as any other great batsman.
Root’s journey to the top began with club cricket in Sheffield: ‘I was probably five or six when I first played cricket, it was at Sheffield Collegiate Cricket Club and I used to go and watch dad who played for them. My dad was a batsman and a good club cricketer and my brother and I used to get told off for mucking about and whacking balls onto the outfield while they were mid-match.’
Just as he’s benefitted from having equally gifted (and young) team mates like Jonny Bairstow and Gary Ballance at Yorkshire, so a little healthy competition in his school days can’t have hurt – at King Ecgbert School in Dore one Jessica Ennis beat him to a sports personality award. Maybe he’d have pipped her to it if he’d been a bit bigger: ‘I was really small and I couldn’t hit it very far. I tried but just couldn’t and often my team would run out of time chasing scores.’
Cricket was far from his only sport. When he boarded at Worksop College, Joe played a lot of hockey and though a massive Sheffield United fan, he made it into the Nottingham Forest Under 9s. He took to skiing too, off limits rather than off-piste now for obvious reasons.
At 13 Joe became the youngest player ever to be given a scholarship to the Yorkshire Cricket Academy, having debuted for Yorkshire Schools two years earlier, but he didn’t start thinking about the possibility of a career in the game until much later: ‘I would say it wasn’t until I played for Yorkshire 2nd XI (he first appeared for them in July 2007 – making 57 on debut) and represented England Under 19s that I thought I might have a shot of a career playing cricket. It was actually a Yorkshire 2nd XI game against Leicestershire where I was batting with Jonny Bairstow. Jonny got a double hundred and I scored 160 not out. He was immediately called up to the first team and I thought if I carried on improving I’d make it there too.’
Playing cricket for Sheffield Collegiate was a good way to enjoy the scenic side of the county – he has fond memories of league grounds, especially those in the Peak District – but his favourite venue in Yorkshire he loves for another reason: ‘Scarborough stands out for me. It’s maybe not the most picturesque of grounds but the atmosphere’s fantastic and there’s always a full house there when we play for Yorkshire, plus it’s got a great history.’
With the hectic touring schedule of an England regular he doesn’t have much downtime, but when he does he likes to head for home: ‘We’re away so much that any chance I get, I come back to Sheffield. Obviously my parents are here and my brother’s at Leeds Met University but I have my own place and it’s great to catch up with everybody and switch off from it all,’ he says.
An unexpected side to his makeup is his artistic talent: ‘If I didn’t play cricket I’d have probably studied something art orientated like graphic design or fine art and looked for a career around them. I’ve always enjoyed drawing and I’ll be taking my sketch pads away with me this winter,’ he says, meaning the tour of Sri Lanka. That’s followed by a series in the West Indies in April, though the main upcoming event is a home Investec Ashes series in July and August, the chance to avenge what he describes as the worst moment of his career, losing the 2013-14 Ashes in Australia. The Aussies figure prominently in his list of ambitions: ‘On a personal level I would love to score a hundred in Australia and win the Ashes out there,’ he says, with World Cup wins in T20 and 50-over cricket in there too. He doesn’t mention the honour that several cricket writers think will one day be his – the England captaincy.
Cricket clearly dominates his still youthful life and he has few if any regrets about that: ‘There are times when you miss home but there are things in everybody’s job or work that frustrate them. It’s unbelievable to get to do something that you’d pay to do if you weren’t a professional,’ he says. ‘I never forget how lucky I am to get paid for doing something I love and I’d never consider doing anything else while I have the chance to play cricket.’
Joe Root facts
Born December 30th 1990
First team debut September 2009 in the Pro40 against Essex - top scored with 63
Man of the series for England U19s in Bangladesh in 2010
First Class debut May 2010
England debut December 2012 (v India at Nagpur, 73 and 20 not out)
Maiden test century in 2nd test against New Zealand May 2013
Highest First Class Score 236 (Yorkshire v Derbyshire May 2013)
Highest Test Score 200 not out (at Lord’s v Sri Lanka, June 2014)
First batsman to start his ODI career with six consecutive scores over 30