I suspect we will hear Joe Root’s name repeatedly in the coming season. In a cricket world filled with bright young batsmen he is the vivid star in England’s firmament and not only has his bright start to the summer ensured he will be in the side for the Ashes but he has won a host of admirers.
So far he has gained an unlikely victory for Yorkshire against Durham at Chester-le-Street and made a double hundred — on the flattest pitch you can imagine — against Derbyshire, the newly promoted side, at Headingley.
I wish I had seen the Durham hundred when Yorkshire was set to make an impossible score in the fourth innings. Root, blocking when he felt he had to, but driving gloriously at times, batted until the scores were level and then, apparently tired, got out. I doubt if anyone in the Yorkshire dressing room said he had let the side down by getting out before the win was secured; he had won his spurs by that time. He is just 23.
Instead I was watching the return of Ronnie ‘Rocket’ O’Sullivan, by a long way the leading player in the snooker circuit and favourite at such odds that no-one wanted to put a penny on his chances. Those seemed nailed on from the moment he opened the world championship even though he had been out of competition since he won the title a year ago.
Snooker has always been the most elegant of games and O’Sullivan makes it look more so. He is charismatic, suave, handsome even, a fearsome potter and an intelligent defensive player; what more can you ask. No wonder he has won the world crown four times and, as I write, is contesting a semifinal with all his usual bravado.
Yet his life belies this great talent. Not only has he been out of retirement — if that is the right word — for just 12 days but he has already declared himself on the brink of a second retirement as soon as the championships end.
His life has not been a happy one. His father was sent to jail for life as the Rocket rose to the top of the snooker tree and the son undoubtedly missed his father.
So I set about wondering how Root might be when he is 37, as O’Sullivan is now.
The world of sport is changing, and particularly cricket. In the not too far distant future it is unlikely that a player will stay with the same club, county, or even his own country forever. Twenty20 cricket has made it possible — as Kevin Pietersen has been quick to see — to live comfortably on a handful of tournaments every year.
There has always been a similarity between snooker and cricket; elegant stroke play, the willingness of those who commit a foul or thin edge a catch to declare themselves out, respect for the referee/umpire and the horror if someone bends the rules.
By the time Root is ready to retire the options open to cricketers, footballers, snooker stars and athletes will be wider. Men of personality will gather in many different parts of the world for short-lived T20 tournaments, there will be five-a-side football matches in countries where the fans are desperate to see the stars of Barcelona, Manchester United, Paris St. Germaine, Bayern Munich.
Snooker, will spread to corners of the earth now ignored. Usain Bolt and the men and women track aces will be in constant demand; and rich beyond their wildest dreams.
No-one will be the least envious or surprised which can only be good for generation next, whatever the sport.