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Root's school return highlights importance of role models

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'How do you play cricket when it is so cold?' - Back to school for Joe Root (1:40)

England Test captain returns to his former school, Dore Primary School, to talk to some of the current pupils. (1:40)

Never go back to your old school unless you are relaxed about a few tales of your childhood seeing the light of day. Who knew, for instance, that Joe Root once sang in a choir - if not with the same commitment of his predecessor as England's Test captain, Alastair Cook? In fact, he couldn't wait to stop. Or if his skill as an artist once involved sketching his father's new Audi TT and billing it to the rest of the family as "Dad's babe magnet"?

By stepping back into Dore Primary School this week, on Sheffield's southern outskirts, where 15 years on he now found himself the star attraction, Root risked old stories being fondly told with a sense of pride and ownership. His former teachers, indulging in a few memories of days gone by, did not disappoint.

To spend an afternoon at Root's old state school primary as he promoted the excellent cricket charity Chance to Shine, in association with the Yorkshire Tea national cricket week, was to observe him giving something back to the first of several schools that helped to nurture his love of the game, and began to foster the standards and integrity that, along with a healthy habit of scoring a barrowload of runs, identified him as a fitting recipient of the England Test captaincy.

Even at 10, when he had a bat in his hand they struggled to get him out. More than 15 years on, he returned the favour with some gentle offspin and grinned as several budding Roots with natural hand-eye co-ordination all but slogged him out of the school grounds. There is gold in these hills. There always has been. It just needs people to extract it.

We are three weeks in to the English county season, but it was hard to believe as sleet showers lashed down and the temperature refused to rise above 6°C that it was here, not too far from the Derbyshire Peak District, where Root first gazed out of a classroom window and dreamed of playing cricket for England. Fell running perhaps…

"But that's what I did," he said, gesturing to an old classroom. "I sat over there somewhere looking out the window and got told off for not concentrating because that was all I would think about."

If all state primary schools had such an enlightened attitude to sport as Dore, it is a fair bet that English cricket - and a few more sports besides - would be awash with talent. When the invitation came to ask him a question, hands shot up. The enthusiasm was infectious. Not in Dore, to steal a line from an ECB-approved marketing study, is the England Test captain less well known than the WWE wrestler John Cena.

Anybody who still questions the importance of role models in encouraging young people to take up sport should have been there to witness it.

Root recalled the Wileman Cup, run by a former head teacher Ian Wileman: sport used in an enlightened fashion for personal development.

"Each team was named after one of the roads locally. You would pick your squad and throughout that week you would have to make sure your team had their kit on match day and you would learn to organise things and manage a team as well as go out and play. I thought it was brilliant to have to learn at a young age to communicate with kids outside a classroom, and interact with different age groups, and then perform in a different sport.

"That was my upbringing. That is how you treat people: with respect. Make sure you look after people around you and it holds you in good stead going forward in terms of leadership. Look at all the best leaders and they have those qualities. I am not the finished article but I like to think the grounding I have had and the background I have had and been raised with will help me going forward.

"Hopefully that can be infectious throughout the side. We have some great blokes in the team who know how to behave and interact with people, not just in the squad but those outside cricket who hold all those values as well. When you have the same views you become closer as a team."

Root was named as Cook's replacement in February and, unusually because the Champions Trophy dominates the early summer, he will not lead the side until a series against South Africa in July. Sensibly, he is not obsessing too soon over his new role, enjoying the arrival of a son, Alfred William - some sound Yorkshire names there - and concentrating instead on some white-ball cricket.

But as the Test series gets nearer, Root again finds himself in need of advice. Much as you sense that Ian Wileman, the head teacher he so gratefully name-checked, and Chris Stewart, his former class teacher at Dore as well as his first captain at his home club, the Yorkshire League side Sheffield Collegiate, would love to be able to advise him still, that responsibility has passed on. So where does education come from now?

"No one as yet," he said. "People have been respectful in not trying to throw things down my throat and give me a little bit of space to get my head around white-ball cricket before it all gets a bit more real. In the coming weeks I might reach out to a few more people. I have not made any serious decisions on who I want to speak to just yet.

"I've been reading a few books here and there but I like to think I'm quite an instinctive player and if that's the way I'm going to be as a captain. I don't want to go into it with too many preconceived ideas.

"Of course you want to be prepared but at the same time you have to go with what sits best with your personality and what's worked for you previously. I feel what has helped with my batting is to be instinctive and try to read the situation and go with what you see out in the middle. In terms of preparing for that it's difficult to do."

A chat for all the England squad with the coach Trevor Bayliss is imminent. "We're meeting up with Trevor over the next few days but until it gets a little bit closer it's difficult to do too much. I don't want to feel like I'm over-prepared or ready now and then miss out somewhere down the line when it unfolds in front of my eyes. I'd much rather gather momentum into that first Test so everything is fresh in my mind."

There is, of course, Michael Vaughan, an England captain from the same club, an unapologetic champion of Root's accession and an Ashes-winning captain from 2005, too, which, for some of us, seems like only yesterday. That he bends Root's ear occasionally can be taken as read. In Yorkshire, it goes with the territory.

One particular conversation was at the forefront of Root's mind. "One thing he said was about something that worked for him. He used to have a metaphorical cap which he would take off when he was fielding and put on his peg if you like and put a different one on when he went out to bat so that he felt there were two Michael Vaughans: him as a batsman and him as a captain. Whether that would work for me I don't know, but he seemed successful.

"I will speak to others along the way and find different things that might work for me. See what happens. It is always nice to get a little bit of an insight into an ex-player or captain who has been there and done it all."

There is no frustration from Root that his bow as England Test captain is so delayed. Instead, his appetite for England to win a 50-over tournament is apparent. It may be their best chance for a long time.

"White-ball cricket has sometimes been overshadowed in England," he said, "but now, more and more, there's emphasis on white ball and it's great to see it's more shop-front window, if you like, and it's a great opportunity for us to do something special as a side.

"It would be huge to win it. We've never done it before and we've come close on so many occasions but it would be very special to put things right on all those occasions when we haven't gone across the line.

"I don't think whether we're favourites or not really bothers this group of players. The personalities in the dressing room are so confident and that's shown in the way they go out and perform in the field and express themselves. They will dive into white-ball cricket now from having that attitude of having done some special things over the last couple of years."

In a healthy society, education should never end. What begins with teachers should continue with an older generation. The qualities ingrained in Root should spread to others, some of whom he will not be aware of or who, conceivably, have not yet been born. The sense is that the sort of education begun at schools like Dore runs deep.

Stewart, his first senior captain, summed up the pride felt in an area that Root still calls his home. "I didn't know he would go as far as he has gone, but I always thought he had it in him to be a good county cricketer," he said. "He was certainly a fantastic player right through his childhood.

"My lad plays cricket now down at Abbeydale and for him, like these kids here at Dore Primary, to see Joe down at Abbeydale taking the drinks on like he did last year and coming back to his school - it's just incredibly inspiring. Those kids know that he was sat in that school hall where they were sitting today. And now he's England captain."

Joe Root was visiting Dore Primary School to launch Yorkshire Tea National Cricket Week with Chance to Shine. This year it runs Monday 19th - Friday 23rd June, sign up now at www.chancetoshine.org/ncw_signups