Root is ready to branch out
Almost from the moment Yorkshire prodigy Joe Root picked up a cricket bat, comparisons with Michael Vaughan were bestowed upon him. A calm and composed right-handed top-order batsman much in the mould of the former England captain, Root's cricketing destiny has been mapped out ever since Yorkshire coach Kevin Sharp spotted his potential as a youngster.
The accolades have since flowed; almost as freely as the runs. Root, now 18, first represented Yorkshire Schools at the age of 11, going on to score over 2,000 runs at an average of over 50 and was awarded a prestigious scholarship at Headingley just two years later.
Then, after promotion from scholarship to the club's academy side in 2007, he was named Player of the Tournament as the team triumphed in the Academy Arch Trophy tournament in Abu Dhabi just before Christmas last year, finishing with 276 runs at an average of 69, with a top score of 110.
And, after returning to his Sheffield home from the Middle East, Root declined the opportunity for a well-earned winter break - instead opting to pack his bags for South Africa, where he enjoyed a successful close season in Bloemfontein representing esteemed St. Andrew's Boy's School.
Touching down in England with three centuries and five fifties under his belt, Root immediately set his sights on glory with both Yorkshire and England. Clearly, this is a youngster not prepared to sit back and let fate take its course.
"I now have a massive head-start on the majority of other players around now," Root said. "I'm now mentally confident having found a nice bit of form just coming into the new season. It was a fantastic boost to my game, as well as giving me the chance to experience the different playing conditions and a different cricketing environment."
Whilst a number of other young cricketing hopefuls spent the off-season casually relaxing with an occasional indoor net thrown in, Root has been expanding both his technique and knowledge of the game - an investment he hopes will pay dividends when Yorkshire and England's Under-19s re-assess their personnel ahead of the new season.
"In terms of Yorkshire, I am currently trying to break into the second team and hopefully play some games there, show them what I can do," said Root. "This time next year, I would have liked to have cemented a spot in Yorkshire's second team and made a big score, and I really want to push for the first team as soon as possible."
And although he was he was left out of the England one-day squad which toured South Africa in January, Root is hoping to force his way into the selectors' thinking ahead of a three-Test series against Bangladesh Under-19s in July. "England have currently dropped me," he said, "but with the way I'm currently playing, if I keep going as I am then it will make it really hard for them not to pick me."
The comparisons with Yorkshire team-mate Vaughan were aided by the similarities in their respective rises to prominence. Both are Sheffield-based top order batsmen, with an organised aura at the crease and a classical cover drive.
The pair learned their trade at Sheffield Collegiate Cricket Club before progressing through the ranks at both county and international level - and have both subsequently suffered rejection by their country for winter tours.
The omission of Vaughan's name from the squad for the tour of the Caribbean over the icy months may have been the more notable of the two - but Root issued a glowing testament to his hero, insisting: "Michael is still such a good player, and I think England will definitely need him for the summer's Ashes series.
"Right from the start, he is the player I always most wanted to emulate - even from when he first burst on to the scene. Now, it's nice to be able to catch up with him at training sessions and pick his brains - it gives you a lot of confidence knowing you have these people to talk to."
Root is approaching one of the most important seasons in his career in the form of his life. Whether he emulates, or even surpasses, his hero Vaughan remains to be seen but, as a focused young man determined to realise the most common of cricketing aspirations - "Ultimately, I want to play for England," - the teen has a better chance than most.
Danny Hall is a trainee journalist at Sheffield Hallam University