JOE Root believes the England captaincy can actually raise his game to a whole new level rather than diminish his run-scoring prowess.
The Yorkshire batsman was back on familiar ground at Headingley yesterday for his first series of media responsibilities since being appointed as Alastair Cook’s successor.
Although the 26-year-old was seen by many as the obvious man to step up, there are those who fear the added duties of leading the national side could impinge on his prolific form with the bat, as has happened with some of his predecessors.
But Root – rated the world’s No 1 Test batsman in 2015 who has now scored more than 4,500 runs from 54 Tests at an average of 52.80 – argues otherwise.
“I like to think that, in the past, the more responsibility I’ve been given I’ve stepped up to that and taken it in my stride,” he said, having been promoted from vice-captain.
“Looking around the world, other guys in a similar position to me have taken similar responsibility and taken their game to the next level.
“So, I’d like to think if I go about it the right way I’ll be able to do the same thing.
“(Australia’s) Steven Smith and (India’s) Virat Kohli have improved their form and that excites me.
“I think that’s a very good way to look at it personally.
“It’s an opportunity for me; it’s a great motivator to make sure I do everything I can to get my batting in the best place possible and set the example for the rest of the guys in the team.”
Root, of course, has barely any experience as a captain at first-class level, leading Yorkshire just four times previously, but he remains confident he will be suited to the role.
For those who feel the job may have come too early, he insisted: “I’ve not really been looking at it as a goal to become captain.
“I just wanted to do as much as I can to help this team and now it’s come about I feel I’m as ready as I can be for this opportunity.”
Asked about what style he envisages England playing on his watch, he said “tough to play against” and added: “I’d like to hope we’ll play cricket that is enjoyable to watch. That is something that excites me; it should be entertaining Test cricket and that’s something I want to get across to the team and the people watching.
“It’s a good opportunity to give something back to the game that has given me so much. Hopefully I will do things my way. But I’m very lucky to have inherited an exciting team with a great blend of experience, raw talent and a core group of players who have played 20 to 30 games and are ready to take some more responsibility, and become a really tough side to play against.”
Root – who revealed he was at his Sheffield home changing son Alfie’s nappy when director of England cricket Andrew Strauss rang with the news – has more than four months to prepare with England’s next Test match not until July 6 at Lord’s.
During that time, he is likely to pick the brains of former captains and other people “away from the game” while he is also set to meet Cook, who stood down after a record 59 Tests in charge but will play on for England.
Root said: “I will be speaking to Alastair in the next few days – he sent me a lovely text message.
“I think he wanted to give me space in the short-term but I will definitely be in touch with him.
“I feel we’ll have a very similar relationship as we do now, off the field, anyway. On the field, he’ll be extremely helpful. I don’t think he’ll be the sort of person who will try to get in the way.
“He’ll let me go about it and do things my way but he’ll be there to offer help and advice if need be.
“I think he’ll be a very good fit and natural leader as a senior player within the team.
“It actually excites me that it’s not the end for him. It’s a great opportunity for him to go and break every record going and to really concentrate on his batting and show everyone what a good player he is.”
Root is renowned not only for his own batting but for being an effervescent presence around the England camp and sees no reason why his joyful, at times cheeky, demeanour should alter.
“I don’t think so; I want the guys to enjoy playing cricket,” he added. “You have 10 to 15 years, you have to enjoy being at the pinnacle of the sport and the more I can get that across to the lads, the more we can have that environment the better. It isn’t always enjoyable. With guys like Ben (Stokes – vice-captain) and few others becoming more senior, they’ll help get that point across.”
Certainly, there is no fear of him suddenly becoming more statesmanlike just because of the greater work demands. “I just want to be very natural, instinctive and find something that naturally works,” he added.
“We have a period now to think about these things, speak to people and find out what works for me and this team. It’s the biggest honour in the game and I can’t wait to get stuck in.”