Joe Root has promised he will be ready as England captain for the challenge of this winter’s Ashes - after being “caught cold” as an aspiring batsman at his first attempt in Tests Down Under.
Root, who took over as captain after Alastair Cook’s resignation, was dropped for the final Test of England’s 5-0 whitewash defeat in 2013/14. The Sheffielder admits it felt at times as if he had walked straight into a “conservatory door” - such was the shock of finding himself as part of a losing team in an away Ashes series.
Root ended up with a series average under 28, compared with his current career mark of 52.80 - and after 15 Tests at the age then of 23, he became one of the fall guys as England rang the changes on the way to a final defeat by 281 runs.
This time, he vows, it will be different when England travel with renewed hope in October. “I won’t be caught cold,” he said. “I know what to expect from what can be quite a hostile environment. That first Test match, when I walked out to bat, it did hit me quite hard. It was like I walked into a conservatory door, not aware at all that it was there... but I will be more aware.”
Root believes he is still benefiting from the harsh experience of his maiden Ashes trip. “I’ve done all my learning from that tour already,” he said, having resolved to stick to what he does best as a batsman rather than acting on well-meaning advice.
“For large periods of that trip, I was spending so much time and energy working on things that other people said I needed to work on - ‘getting forward, bigger stride, into the ball’.
“In reality, they were bowling 95mph bouncers - so it was pointless.
“I came back from it and thought ‘just strengthen all the things that have served you very well for long periods of time, and slowly but surely work on the rest of it’.
“From that I gained a lot of confidence - and that was a really good way, from being in quite a difficult spot, of getting out of it and feeling good again.”
Root will take a similar tone with his team-mates, to try to ensure they realise a potential which at times stalled in the final months of Cook’s reign last year.
Other important assignments will come first, of course - including this summer’s Champions Trophy as a footsoldier in Eoin Morgan’s team and then a maiden Test as captain, against South Africa at Lord’s, almost five months after Root officially took over the role.
“It’s not always easy to enjoy it, but that (Ashes) tour is a great opportunity for this team,” he said.
“There’s a massive series against South Africa. If we look too far ahead then we could get caught out against a very good side.
“There is a group of players who have played between 20 and 40 (Tests) and are ready to take their cricket to the next level - instead of being established England players, to become top-10 players in international cricket.
“The ability is there, and it is up to them to take that responsibility. I want to take that chance to drive it forward.”
A bit of Yorkshire ‘grit’ may be called for.
“When we’ve got on top, we’ve destroyed sides and won comfortably,” added Root.
“It’s just when things get a little bit tough and go against us, we have to make sure we find a way back into the game.
“It’s maybe a little more backbone, more grit on occasions - that’s something we need to talk about as a side.”
*Root was speaking on behalf of BRUT Sport Style, the new fragrance from men’s grooming brand BRUT