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Updated: February 24, 2013 04:38 IST

Root gladdens English hearts

Ted Corbett
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Joe Root. Photo:AP
Joe Root. Photo:AP

We learnt two facts of life this week that will stay with us for an eternity.

Firstly, David Cameron, British Prime Minister on a diplomatic visit to India, showed that he might have been a cricketer at Eton — where they are known as “dry bobs” in contrast with the “wet bobs” who take to the boats — but that he plays in a carefree way we have not seen in the England Test side since Freddie Brown took on the captaincy in the 1950s.

That free and easy swing of the bat, the scurry to the other end for a single and the giggle when he is almost run out might have been acceptable to the amateur Brown but would be disdained by the modern Test professional.

I guess that is understandable when a wage approaching £500,000 a year is at stake. That sort of money induces a certain amount of care.

Half a day further to the east in New Zealand, Joe Root, an even greater England batting hero in India recently, was showing exactly the perfect mix of caution and freedom.

He also made clear why, one of these days, someone in authority is going to shout: “This lad is the best young English batsman to emerge since the Second World War.” Yes, better than Tom Graveney, than David Gower; an improvement on Graham Gooch, a stride ahead of Graham Thorpe, now one of his coaches.

At 22, Root — like George Best he has been named, if not for greatness, certainly to gladden a sub-editor’s heart — is that remarkable type, the sportsman better at international play than domestic stuff.

He is so good that seasoned judges used to weighing potential, are clearly reluctant to commit themselves as if they might be thinking “No one is that good at 22. He is sure to have a bad trot. There will be plenty of time to make a proper assessment when he is 28 and reaching his zenith.”

You could tell, however, if just from their tone of voice that Geoff Boycott and Alec Stewart, great England batsmen in their own right, saw his 79 against New Zealand in Napier this week as a sign Root was growing into a mature cricketer.

He stands loose-limbed at the crease, lifts his bat with an easy flourish, is quick on his feet and able to change shot, stance and move from right-handed to southpaw in a flash. I have faith that Andy Flower, Ashley Giles, Thorpe and the rest have the sense to leave him to develop alone.

There is something both happy and adult about the way he bats, right from that high backlift and those teenage good looks to the cheeky grin that watches the ball fly 90 yards over the boundary or into the crowd.

These skills will not just bring him a shipload of runs but add a coachload of fans whenever he plays.

Improving fast

He is, of course, not yet a fully grown player but the speed of his improvement has already guaranteed him a place in the side to the extent that we must wonder what will happen when the mighty Kevin Pietersen demands his No. 4 spot again.

England is blessed with strength in depth at the moment: Buttler to take over from Kieswetter and/or Bairstow, Bresnan to return from an operation on his elbow, Trott to play his own steady way and be appreciated.

Particularly when a Yorkshire apprentice can get bigger headlines than the Prime Minister.

“Must be doing something right” as they say in Sheffield where the best steel and the best young players have always come learnt their cricket.


England beat New Zealand by 8 wicketsFebruary 20, 2013

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