Joe Root is vice-captain, senior batsman and still looks as if he has only just received his A-level results. But they all look up to him now. And he has long since started to sound like a veteran.
On the eve of the first Test in Bangladesh he did, however, refer to this expedition as his first real tour of the subcontinent. Strictly speaking, that is not true. He was in India in 2012, which was expected to be just a learning experience for the young Tyke – until the team reached Nagpur for the final Test.
There Alastair Cook made an inspired decision. Despite two consecutive victories he brought in Root for Samit Patel. And Root delivered immediately with 73 and an unbeaten 20.
“You just have to enjoy the occasion,” he said recalling his debut, “and make the most of the opportunity.” It sounds simple enough. And in Nagpur four years ago he made it look amazingly simple.
Root has played every one of his Tests under Cook and on the eve of his captain’s record-breaking 134th match – overtaking Alec Stewart in the all-time Test cap stakes – he was keen to sing his praises. “That is a fabulous achievement and not just a testament to his skill,” Root said. “He’s overcome every obstacle and he has had a tough couple of years.
“He is now a stronger character, a better character with a better perspective on the game. The young guys should not take it for granted that he will always be around. We have to make the most of his knowledge and experience. He is now back to his best and I’ve huge respect for him. He can be quite stubborn – and I’ve learnt from that as well.”
Arguably Cook’s greatest triumph was leading England to victory in India on Root’s first tour. The goal now is obviously to repeat that but the personnel at his disposal is rather different. Most obviously this applies in the spin department. “It is hard to compare the current ones with [Monty]Panesar and [Graeme] Swann,” said Root, which might be decoded as an acknowledgment that England currently lack expertise in this area.
“There is talent and potential but now we have to find the best formula,” Root said. That process starts in Chittagong on Thursday and will get trickier once the party moves on to India.
With a sprinkling of novices in the squad Root’s experiences are worth sharing. But his greatest contribution would be to score runs in industrial quantities to help give those spinners space to breath. In any case the time for talking is over.
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