England in India 2012-13 January 12, 2013

Root role revives childhood memories


Joe Root's debut winter with England could not have turned out more strangely. If his first Test appearance might have been designed for him as he had licence to bat as cautiously as he liked, his one-day debut was quite different as he found himself asked to provide a crucial role with the ball.

Root has not been more valued for his bowling since he was 12 years old, a slip of a lad experiencing his first taste of adult cricket at Sheffield Collegiate, and given a few overs of phantom seamers along the way, but that was his lot on his ODI debut against India in Rajkot as he did not bat and then bowled nine overs as England held on for a nine-run win.

"That probably hasn't happened since I was 10 or 11 years old, playing my first men's cricket," he confirmed, "but it was fantastic and I wouldn't change a thing."

That Root's bowling option might become useful, certainly in one-day cricket, has been apparent to all who have watched him at Yorkshire, but he has been used sparingly in county cricket for all that. He has taken only seven wickets for Yorkshire in his career and bowled only 80 overs, hardly the sort of grounding for a high-pressure one-day international.

In fact, he had become best known for Yorkshire's habit of giving him the first over in Friends Life t20 before whipping him off before opponents measured him up, a tactic largely designed to provide more bowling options later in the innings.

But Root did his England captain, Alastair Cook, proud. His first five overs cost 17, matching the success of Suresh Raina for India on a day when part-time spinners did well. In all, he conceded 51 from nine overs, a sound return in a match which yielded 644 runs on a flat pitch and glassy outfield. Strikingly, he was trusted to maintain control more than the more experienced Samit Patel.

He was scheduled to make his ODI debut against India in Rajkot at No 4, but he was slipped down the order to allow England's faster scorers to take charge of the closing overs and, as they posted a formidable 325 for 4, he never got to the crease. His claims are perhaps stronger for a Test batting place, but England's top six is not overly blessed with fill-in bowlers and his adaptability will not do his one-day chances any harm.

"I've been working hard on the bowling to give the captain as many options as possible," Root said. "The aim was that if I possibly had a chance to bowl I wouldn't disappoint and be consistent as possible. When you are playing in atmospheres like this - full houses. massive crowds screaming and you can't hear a thing out there - it's easy to get lost in the game. That's fantastic - quite relaxing actually."

Mushtaq Ahmed, England's spin-bowling coach, is building on the preliminary work carried out at Yorkshire. "I've been working really hard for a couple of years now and working here with Mushy," he said. "I need to make sure it is going to be a really big asset for me in the future and take any chances of having as many options as I can to give myself the best chance of selection."

It was all a different challenge from his unexpected Test debut in Nagpur in December. On a desperately slow pitch, and with England needing only to draw to win the series, he was preferred over the likes of his Yorkshire team-mate Jonny Bairstow and Middlesex's Eoin Morgan and made a technically-accomplished 73 in four-and-three-quarter hours which perfectly suited his side's needs.

His first Twenty20 appearance in another England win just before Christmas probably owed most to a short-handed squad as Bairstow left the tour early for personal reasons and he completed a hat-trick of debuts across all three formats in Rajkot, where he was once again part of a winning side. He must reflect on all the tales of England defeats in India and wonder about how well things are turning out.

"There are a few guys out here who have been on two tours before and not won a game, so I'm really pleased for those who have put all that hard work in and finally come up with a win. As for me, I'm still 22 years old and I just want to play as much as possible and take the opportunity if I get it."

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sriram on January 14, 2013, 12:04 GMT

    What has been impressive is that how Mushy Ahmed has been utilized, taken care and retained by ECB. Its common is Asia that thier legends and great cricketers are never utilized very well to groom youngsters, good to see Mushy gaining his own place and respect in the english set up.

  • Andrew on January 14, 2013, 3:54 GMT

    @ ashes61 on (January 12 2013, 18:53 PM GMT) - agreed with most of what you said until "...It's the lge which produced players who've made the Ashes rather a one-sided series & who make up the No 1 ODI side." - that would be the Currie Cup! You asked for it. @landl47 on (January 13 2013, 05:21 AM GMT) - I agree. He is a top young batting talent, but I doubt that he'll get away with 9 overs for 51 runs next time. Saw a bit of the game, & would say that KP is a much more reliable spin bowling option outside 20/20.

  • Dummy4 on January 13, 2013, 20:43 GMT

    @ Yorkshirematt Well Root's batting was never in question and now he has proved his worth as a spinner so all the credit to him! Every team needs a good all rounder and England just got one who will be heard of for a long time!

  • Matthew on January 13, 2013, 16:16 GMT

    @Harshad k Trivedi If someone had told the Headingley faithful last summer that Rooty would be being referred to as a "spinner" in 6 months time we'd have told them to jog off down Kirkstall Lane! While it is good that he has it in his locker, neither england nor Yorkshire should lose sight of from the fact that his job is to see off the new ball then get runs at the top of the order.

  • joel on January 13, 2013, 15:54 GMT

    Well England need to bring in a new sixth batsman , if Roots part time spinbowling can be used in tests as wellas ODIs . Then thats great . Its a good time to be an England fan now .

  • Dummy4 on January 13, 2013, 15:33 GMT

    Its good to see good spinners coming from England and this lad does look like he is here to stay and define England's future. The main thing is the team has to trust in their players to give their best and that is what Indian Selectors and Dhoni are denying the promising players. You really need to be able to assess the quality of your players if you are a Selector or a Captain, otherwise you should not be there in that position.

  • david on January 13, 2013, 12:27 GMT

    perhaps bulling up his bowling at this stage by some is an over reaction. he looks to be a level headed young man and a good test player in the making. its always good for one of your top 5 to be able to chip in with 4/5 overs in odis and if conditions dictate a few more in tests. he got away with his bowling in the 1st odi but that could change in the next, but even so the indians are supposed to be the best players of spin, so the indian captains comments that his team should have won if they had played certain bowlers better is nonsense, as after a game most could say i only .if only did not happen and that been so, england deserved to win

  • j on January 13, 2013, 12:05 GMT

    @yorkshirematt & jmcilhinney: You're forgetting that Randy is constantly trying to escape the inescapable fact that the English Five year dominance over Australia is still going stronger than ever. He always brings a smile for that reason. :)