England in India 2012-13 December 1, 2012

Root beds in after 'daunting' start


Joe Root endured an unfortunate start to his first senior England appearance a few weeks ago. Root, who already looked as if he might have difficulty being served in a bar in London, turned up in an England blazer that, he reckons, was six or seven sizes too big for him. It did nothing to alleviate the impression that this tour had come a year or two early for him. "It felt like I was wearing Chris Tremlett's blazer," Root said. "It was good fun, though, as it was a nice ice-breaker for the rest of the side to get to know me."

Root, 21 years old, is certainly fresh faced. But it would be wrong to read too much into that. After all, Alastair Cook and Sachin Tendulkar hardly looked like grisly old pros when they started. Sometimes a youthful face can hide a steely interior. Besides, you wonder if Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting might swap all those runs, all those centuries and all that success to be where Root finds himself right now: at the start of the journey.

Root is a talented young man with a bright future. Having developed through the same Sheffield Collegiate club side as Michael Vaughan, Root surpassed 1,000 first-class runs in his first full season in 2011 and impressed Graham Thorpe, England's lead batting coach, on the subsequent England Performance Programme (EPP) tours. He followed it with another solid season in 2012, helping Yorkshire secure promotion and winning the Cricket Writers' Club Young Player of the Year award. Geoffrey Boycott is among Root's many admirers.

Root admitted, however, that his first experience of the England dressing room had been somewhat intimidating. One of the downsides of central contracts, compared to many upsides, is that international players are rarely seen in the county game. And one of the downsides of the more professional approach that players have these days is that opponents do not so readily meet for a drink after play to chat about the game

"It was quite daunting walking into that room with guys you've spent the last five years watching on the telly," Root said. "They are heroes you look up to and the next minute you're training with them every day and learning from them. I didn't know them at all to be honest.

"But they've been brilliant. It's a great environment to be part of and everyone's really excited for the rest of the series. Everybody has been very good at making sure I'm welcomed into the side and Tim Bresnan, in particular, made sure everyone got to know me. That was really beneficial. It's been fantastic."

Root knows that this tour, for him, may well be about acclimatisation. With Nick Compton having been preferred to Root for the Test side and having taken his chance pretty well, Root has been relegated to the role of understudy. While there is an element of disappointment about that, Root also accepts that the time familiarising himself with the England dressing room, its characters, habits and work ethic will help him feel more comfortable if and when his chance comes.

"It's good to ease your way in and get exposure to all the coaches and the lads and it's brilliant to get some advice on board from everyone and a great learning opportunity"

"Any time spent around the team is valuable," he said. "It's good to almost ease your way in and you get great exposure to all the coaches and all the lads and it's brilliant to get some advice on board from everyone and a great learning opportunity. I'll just keep trying to get as much from this tour as I possibly can."

He showed he remains in decent touch with a century for the EPP squad last week. While the quality of the opposition was modest, Root took the opportunity to remind the selectors of his form and, should injury intervene, he insists he is ready.

"Everyone needs time in the middle," he said. "Especially when you've not been playing, you need to have the confidence that, if something does go wrong, if someone does go down, I've got a weight of runs behind me to stand me in good stead.

"I'll just be doing everything I can in the nets, working with all the coaches to try to improve my game and take as much from the tour as possible. And also to make sure that, if required, I'm ready to go."

That game also featured Steven Finn's comeback from injury. While no decision about Finn's involvement in the third Test has yet to be made - the next three days of training will define that - Root, at least, was impressed by the fast bowler's performance.

"He looked very dangerous," Root said. "He bowled fantastically well, took some wickets and got good overs under his belt. He bowled great areas and looked threatening like he always does. I think he's pretty happy with where he's at now, and interesting to see how things go over the next three days in training."

Part of Root's training involves working on his offspin. While he remains very much a part-time bowler at present - he claimed just one Championship wicket in 2012 - he knows that an ability to perform a role as second or even third spinner might, at some stage, make a crucial difference when it comes to selection.

"I'm working really hard on my bowling," he said. "I'm trying to take this opportunity of being part of this squad to be a better player and my bowling is definitely part of that. My aim is to improve and give the captain another option, so I have to be able to take some wickets or tie an end up."

The England squad, which now contains Ian Bell and James Tredwell, will resume training on Sunday when they take their first look at the much-debated pitch for the third Test at Eden Gardens. They spent Saturday helping a children's charity in Kolkata. While there may be much cynicism about sports people engaged in charity, no media were present on this occasion and no notice of their activity was published.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on December 4, 2012, 7:04 GMT

    @CricketMaan on (December 03 2012, 14:18 PM GMT), I don't see Root playing game 4 even if Compton does fail in game 3. Debuting someone in the last game of a series in place of someone who themselves debuted in the first is not in the makeup of the current England selectors. If Compton doesn't do much for the rest of this series then we may get a look at Root in NZ, where the conditions would be more like what he's used to. We might see a play-off between Root and Compton in the warmups there.

  • Jason on December 4, 2012, 5:16 GMT

    @CricketMaan, Bell will probably by back, though it may be at the expense of Patel rather than Bairstow, as KP can bowl a few overs of spin if necessary and trott can turn his arm over with little medium pace cutters.

  • Sriram on December 3, 2012, 14:18 GMT

    With Bairstow unlucky last time around, will Bell be brought back into the team? and Root has to wait for Nick to fail at Eden. The only surity is Finn in for Board. Monty and Swann will be high on confidence, though a slow turner might dampen thier confidence a bit, as its just the kind of pitch that suits Indian batting.

  • Mike on December 2, 2012, 18:49 GMT

    Silly comments about Bell. He is one of our best players ! OK he has struggled in Asia but he was superb last season in England, played class opening in the ODI side. Mind you he is a little fragile and a confidence olayer, But his stats tell you he is a class act, would walk into any other Test side. He can time the ball superb, easily the best we have in that regard. Be nice if he was a tough bloke like Cookie but Cook is extra special, will smash evry record going for English Test rubs and possibly ODI tuns also, he has been striking at 80 or so in ODI's. But Bell is allowed some poor form. Madness to talk of not picking him. You ask any pro cricketer ex or current how good Bell is they will all say class act. Check his statts, superb. Fact is stats are the game if they say you are quality then you are. Will make a hundred in India either way I want him in any side. Plus becoming a Father may help his mentality which I admit is a weakness of his all he needs but he is brilliant imo

  • John on December 2, 2012, 14:04 GMT

    I doubt they'll use him as a middle order batsman. Part of the excitement about the lad is that he has a compact style which suits him well as an opener to see off the new ball. Of course a compact batting style does not mesh well with sub-continent pitches and spin bowling. He's got time on his side and I don't mind giving Compton or even Carberry a run while he develops.

  • John on December 2, 2012, 13:29 GMT

    I think that almost everyone believed that this tour was a bit too soon for Root and that opener's spot was Compton's to lose. The fact that he was included in squad, though, is an obvious sign that the selectors want Root in the team before too long. If Root continues on the path that most would hope and Compton is no more than OK, I see Root in the side in two years time. As much as I'm a fan of Ian Bell, if he doesn't pull his socks up soon then I can definitely see Bairstow and/or Taylor spending more time in the team. They've both showed some good signs so far and it would be interesting to see what they could do with an extended run in the team. With no series in the subcontinent for a while, they would both have a chance to establish themselves in more familiar conditions. The next tour to WI could be interesting, where the conditions will be more like the subcontinent but the opposition significantly different.

  • ian on December 2, 2012, 12:49 GMT

    I know little of Joe Root but reading this article has given me some insight into his young mind. I like what I read. He is obviously grounded, has an ego that is well under his control, appreciates the manner in which he has been received by others & pays a nice compliment to his fellow Yorkie, Tim Bresnan. To use the modern expression, he's not getting ahead of himself. Patience is not something that the young are esp. noted for! So this suggests that he is making an ideal tourist, which is the best news for England supporters and esp. for JR himself. His positive outlook & his willingness to learn will not have gone unnoticed by the management. Tourists need to be more than fine cricketers, they need to be rounded characters able to adapt to new circumstances in a strange culture & contribute to the well-being of the touring party as a whole. His time will assuredly come. Until then, he & we can look forward to a cricketer who will represent England in the best sporting spirit!

  • Dummy4 on December 2, 2012, 10:39 GMT

    I simply do not understand why there is not more support for James Taylor. He represents the future of England batting. Not his fault he was run out by Trott in his second Test.

  • R on December 2, 2012, 7:36 GMT

    I'm at a total loss why bell is even mentioned, he has done nothing to warrant a mention all year. He has not scored a ton for Eng for 18 months and has done nothing on this tour yet so far... All on the back of averaging 8 in UAE, something he should have been dropped for, and certainly not included for this tour as he has proved yet again he cannot play spin or ''tough it out''... I hope JB keeps his place and kicks on so we can forget about bell for a long time.

  • Jason on December 2, 2012, 4:02 GMT

    Root is definately on the rise, and at 22 is still very young, although he lacks knowledge of different conditions, which is why its important for him to be part of the England squad and to play in different conditions, I expect we'll see Compton become the main stay opener with Cook for the next 2-3 years with Root as the back up opener/first drop, on overseas tours to cover for injury to the top 3, in home series I expect he'll just be on the fringes, playing for the lions during the summer, and focused on batting in the CC as well as working with Gooch, unfortunately he'll probably also have to put up with long lectures from Geoffrey.

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