Weekend Interview: Revived Joe Root eager to return to the heat of battle for Yorkshire CCC and England

Yorkshire & England cricketer Joe Root at Sheffield's Abbeydale Sports Club. Picture: Scott Merrylees
Yorkshire & England cricketer Joe Root at Sheffield's Abbeydale Sports Club. Picture: Scott Merrylees

IF any Yorkshire sportsman has been overdue a bit of rest and recuperation of late, it is undoubtedly Joe Root.

If 2015 was hectic, then the early part of this current calendar year offered scant respite, with Root’s England itinerary taking in the culmination of their victorious winter Test tour to South Africa followed by a one-day series.

Joe Root with England and Yorkshire team-mates Jonny Bairstow and Adam Lyth after winning The Ashes in 2015.

Joe Root with England and Yorkshire team-mates Jonny Bairstow and Adam Lyth after winning The Ashes in 2015.

Then came the ICC World Twenty20 Cup in the oppressive heat of India from March 8 to April 3 in a competition was part exhilarating, part exhaustive for England – ultimately afflicted by heavy hearts and not heavy legs in the shattering final loss to the West Indies at Eden Gardens.

A little welcome down-time back in his native Sheffield has been afforded England’s pin-up boy following that cruel finale in Calcutta, a luxury conspicuous by its absence last year when a website revealed that Root only had five nights out with his mates in his home city and sat down for just one home-cooked meal at his mum’s.

On the menu in 2015 was a Test tour of the West Indies and a victorious Ashes summer alongside countless limited-overs commitments and how Root gorged himself and dined out continually – effortlessly hitting 2,131 runs for England and rising to No 1 in the ICC batting rankings.

A total of 460 of those runs – including sweet centuries at Cardiff and Trent Bridge – arrived in a man-of the series showing against Australia, which was chronicled in his own book entitled ‘Bringing Home The Ashes’.

Yorkshire & England cricketer Joe Root at Sheffield's Abbeydale Sports Club. Picture: Scott Merrylees

Yorkshire & England cricketer Joe Root at Sheffield's Abbeydale Sports Club. Picture: Scott Merrylees

Those considerable exploits followed on from topping the runs chart for England in the tour of the Caribbean in the spring of 2015.

In the words of Frank Sinatra, it was a very good year.

After a bit of time – not much mind – to take stock back in South Yorkshire, Root is now eager for his next cricketing adrenalin fix,.

You sense he is the sort of person who does not like being inactive and staring at four walls for too long.

It begins with a couple of appointments for the White Rose, beginning at Nottingham tomorrow, with his genuine boyish enthusiasm for donning the cap of Yorkshire again in the County Championship for the first time in just under 20 months being admirable and emblematic of someone who is in love with the game and most certainly not with himself.

“The rest has been good. I have enjoyed it,” admitted Root earlier this week.

“It is not very often we get a good chunk of time away from the game. This winter, before the end of the World Cup, we had maybe two weeks off since the end of September.

“It’s been full on and a lot of cricket.

“But at the same time, we’ve achieved a lot as a side.

“Going into the World Cup, I am not sure we’d have been expecting to get to the end we outdid ourselves in that respect.

“And the way we performed in the Test arena against South Africa was again an outstanding effort.

“So it is really exciting going into the summer with all the momentum that we have built up behind us.

“If we can win both series, I think we will have held every trophy as a nation, which would be another great achievement.”

After two first-class outings with Yorkshire, against Notts and then Surrey, Root will line up for England’s domestic Test curtain-raiser against Sri Lanka, with the three-match series starting at Headingley on May 19.

It is an occasion he is relishing in a summer which also sees Pakistan visit these shores as England seek to build momentum before rounding off their Test year with a tour to India.

Root added: “It is a bit strange really. It is not very often you play the first Test in summer at Headingley.

“But it could really work in our favour.

“It’s a ground where we haven’t played our best cricket in the past few years, but historically it has been very good for us and, hopefully, that can continue.

“It’s always nice to play at Headingley, whether it be for Yorkshire or England and the crowd always get well behind you and the Western Terrace is always rowdy and it can be quite entertaining if the cricket is quite dull.

“They are always a nice distraction. I am looking to getting back out there and it is imperative we get off to a good start in the series.

“We have got two strong sides coming over and we are going to have to play some really good cricket and there will be a lot of pressure on a number of different players in the team.

“By the end of it, we want to make sure we have been dominant in our own conditions before we go away to India.”

Immediate mention of India rewinds the clock sub-consciously to those events at on April 3 with Root and his England colleagues left shell-shocked after Carlos Brathwaite bludgeoned the West Indies to final-over World Twenty20 glory, hitting four consecutive sixes off the unfortunate Ben Stokes, who cut an inconsolable figure as the Windies partied.

Root felt deeply for Stokes during that desperate finale, but remains adamant that the responsibility for defeat was a collective one.

He added: “When you get to a cup final, it is all about winning and you are bitterly disappointed when you don’t get across the line.

“But at the same time, we didn’t perform as well as them on the day and can accept that and were 20 or 30 runs short with the bat.

“A lot has been said about Ben at the death, but without him and the other guys bowling as well as they did throughout the whole tournament, we wouldn’t have even got to that stage.

“If given the same opportunity, there is no question – I would certainly ask him to bowl the last over (again).”

While the wounds will still linger following the tumultuous defeat for a while, perspective was afforded nine days later by the shock news of the retirement of England batsman James Taylor, due to a serious heart defect.

It provided clear context to defeats in the sporting arena and proved the sport is nowhere near as important as the serious business of life.

Root said: “You look at how devastated we were at the World Cup.

“But in the grand scheme of things, what happened to James puts it massively into perspective.

“Cricket is a massive part of my life, but it is a part of my life, not my whole life.

“It is pleasing to see they found what is wrong now, when something could have happened down the line which might cost him his life.

“I know he is very grateful for them and it is very admirable and inspiring with the way he has gone about his treatment and how positive he has been about moving forward.”