Chris Waters: Joe Root will adopt a bold new approach in charge of England
TO the names of Lord Hawke, Stanley Jackson, Rony Stanyforth, Norman Yardley, Len Hutton, Brian Close, Raymond Illingworth, Geoffrey Boycott and Michael Vaughan can be added that of Joe Root.
England’s 80th Test captain is also the 10th to have represented Yorkshire in first-class cricket, although Illingworth was a Leicestershire player when he oversaw 31 Tests between 1969 and 1973, while Stanyforth had yet to play for the club.
Neither Hawke, Stanyforth nor Vaughan were born in Yorkshire, and while Stanyforth’s name will be unfamiliar to some, those of Hawke and Vaughan are most readily associated with God’s Own County.
As Yorkshire chairman Steve Denison tweeted yesterday: “Normal order is restored – England Test cricket back in the hands of a Yorkshireman.”
Like Vaughan, who was born ‘on t’other side of t’hill’ in Salford, Root grew up in Sheffield and learnt his cricket at Sheffield Collegiate.
Vaughan himself took to Twitter yesterday to ponder if any other club has produced two England captains, a feather in Sheffield Collegiate’s cap, if ever there was one.
No doubt there will be somewhere down south that could lay dubious claim, but the bigger picture was of deep Yorkshire pride.
In a county in which passion for the game is seemingly genetic, Vaughan and Denison will not be the only ones thrilled that the Test captaincy is back in Yorkshire hands.
Beyond such provincial considerations, of course, is the key question of whether Root will be successful.
The names that he follows in the Yorkshire roll of England captains have not always translated tactical skill into favourable results, although there is no doubting the records of Vaughan and Close, in particular.
From a young age, Root, 26, has been earmarked for the position, so much so that the dreaded tag ‘FEC’ (Future England Captain) was stuck to his shoulders almost before he had signed his first autograph.
For many (his former Yorkshire team-mate Joe Sayers, for example), hope did not quite equal the reality; only the select few go on to become an ‘AEC’ (Actual England Captain).
So, will Root be successful?
There are plenty of factors in his favour.
For his own part, he has played 53 Tests (many of them as vice-captain to Alastair Cook), so has experience aplenty of international cricket.
Fiercely determined, which is partly why he has become one of the world’s best batsmen, he will leave no stone unturned in an effort to thrive.
Stories of his desire for self-improvement are legion at Headingley, where the coaching staff have witnessed a man on a mission ever since he arrived at the club, and there is no reason to suppose that his batting form will tail off.
Indeed, as proved by former Yorkshire team-mate Kane Williamson, along with Steve Smith and Virat Kohli, the creme de la creme of the world’s best batsmen invariably have more than one string to their bow right now.
Root is very much in their mould and can join them in making a success of leadership.
Of course, a captain is only ever as good as his team, particularly his bowlers, and Root has plenty of good ones.
England will not be able to rely on James Anderson for ever, but there is firepower and variety in their attack.
As proved by the recent defeat in India, however, England have much work to do.
But they also have an exciting group of players who are playing positively, something that Root will maintain and evolve.
Unlike Cook, who was naturally cautious, Root is a more attack-minded character.
Although too sensible to be reckless, he is the sort who would take a chance in an effort to win.
With the likes of new vice-captain Ben Stokes and Yorkshire’s Jonny Bairstow in the team, he can certainly afford to be brave.
As ever, the proof of the (Yorkshire) pudding will be in the eating.
A good player does not automatically make a good captain.
Root, indeed, was playfully nicknamed ‘Craptain’ when Middlesex famously chased 472 to beat Yorkshire at Lord’s.
No-one found it funnier than Root, who will be determined to show that he is anything but.