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May 22, 2013
Joe Root is not just the most exciting young England batsman around, this week he is also a marketing executive's dream. England's batting tyro can't stop scoring runs and he is about to play his first Test at Headingley. That should be enough for Root to become all misty-eyed and for the Yorkshire public to turn up in droves.
Except this is Yorkshire. People don't often get misty eyed. Not unless they have real mist in them.
With the Yorkshire public so far playing hard to get, and indicating that they might turn up on the day if the weather's nice, it is not yet certain that the Headingley public will show enough support to drill a hole into Yorkshire's £19m debt.
This is the county that parades its love of cricket like no other, but when it comes to England they can never entirely be trusted. The forecast is dry - perhaps even sunny - for the first three days, England have just bowled out New Zealand for 68, and alongside Root, Yorkshire will have another local boy with a point to prove in Jonny Bairstow.
Then again, Tim Bresnan is not certain to play. That might be a reason to look elsewhere. But Root has 757 first-class runs this season at an average of 126.16 and promises to be the most proficient Yorkshire batsmen for many a long year; and Bairstow is the son of one of the most-loved Yorkshire cricketers of all time.
If the Yorkshire public does not turn up to fete Root and Bairstow, their reputation for being a cricket hotbed would need some serious re-evaluation. When it comes to supporting your own, it does not get much better than this.
Root was playing equally hard to get. If he was not a little nervous about being built up ahead of his first Test at Headingley, perhaps he was already in the zone. Marketing departments might want him to draw attention to himself, but he was getting his head down. Was it extra pressure for him to be the batsman Yorkshire were relying on for financial salvation?
"Not really. I have not really thought about that," Root said. "Hopefully lots of people are coming. I'm more worried about the ball coming down at me and making sure I'm fully equipped to face that. I'm just doing everything I can to prepare well and just take it from there."
Root's concentration on the matter in hand will go down well in the Broad Acres. As Alan Maud, a former groundsman at Horsforth in the Aire Wharfe League, and known in his heyday as a bottomless source of good sense, once advised a journalist about something similar: "It's not his job to do your job up in your bloody Ivory Tower." And so it isn't.
Root's phenomenal start to the new season included a career-best 236 in a magnificent win against Derbyshire - Bairstow made 186 - and the achievement resonated even more with the discovery that he had passed 2,000 first-class runs in the same number of innings as two of Yorkshire's most celebrated batsmen, Geoffrey Boycott and Herbert Sutcliffe.
Informed of this, Root said: "It's nice to get some runs early doors." It was a response that had Yorkshireness written through it.
Ticket sales have rushed ahead since England's win at Lord's, but they have rushed ahead from a low base. A week ago, they had barely sold 10,000. By Wednesday lunchtime, they had sold around 22,000 for the first two days - capacity is 17,500 - but Sunday was still very thin. Yorkshire have even introduced print-at-home tickets to save queuing at collection points.
It was perhaps inadvisable for a ticket office spokesman to say that Yorkshire had been "snowed under". It could cause all sorts of rumours of bad weather. That is the way that lies get about.
Encouraged to gush, Root granted that his Test debut at Headingley would be something special, although he slipped up at one point and called his Test debut at Lord's last week "the pinnacle". You could feel him trying to withdraw from the word as he spoke, but he still nicked it to the keeper.
"Growing up watching cricket here, and playing here, it obviously has connections that are quite close to me," he said. "I'm sure it will be very enjoyable and I'm just looking forward to it. I remember coming up there as a young lad and watching some of my heroes play. I just want to keep living my dream and making the most of it."
He first came to Headingley when he was 10, for a Yorkshire trial. "I was nervous and quite small," he ventured. He first watched a Leeds Test a year later. India thumped England by an innings and Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly all made hundreds in India's 628 for 8. A decade later, he has the chance to replace those memories with something more appealing to local tastes.
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