People of Yorkshire Volume 26 Joe Root

Joseph Edward Root is an exciting young cricketer, who has recently helped England regain the Ashes in just fourteen days. At the time of writing he is now the number one test batsman in the world and has been touted as a future captain of the England team.

He was born in Sheffield on December 30th 1990 and attended King Ecgbert School in Dore. Root comes from a cricketing family. His father, Matt, was an accomplished player for Sheffield Collegiate CC, who in his spare time made his new baby, Joe, a hand crafted bat. As a child he would carry it about with him and eventually play cricket in his garden against brother, Billy. They would both watch their father play for the Collegiate and hold their own games of cricket over the boundary; often being told off for accidently hitting their ball onto the field of play in the middle of an over. Aged seven, Root was involved in an unusual incident when on a school trip a large, coloured butterfly landed on him for minutes in front of his classmates. His teacher took that as a sign that this boy was destined for huge things.

When Joe Root was eleven he represented England schools and two years later won a cricketing scholarship at Yorkshire aged 13, after being spotted by coach, Kevin Sharp. Like his father he also turned out for the Yorkshire League side aged fifteen, after coming through the youth ranks there. In the mid to late 2000s it was not unusual to see a Sheffield Collegiate scorecard which featured three members of the Root family, father Matt, along with his two sons, Joe and Billy. At this time he also attended Worksop College  to continue his studies in cricket.

The eldest of the brothers, it seemed was destined for higher things than the Yorkshire League. Joe was encouraged by former player and England Captain, Michael Vaughan who knew he was watching a special talent, destined to follow in his footsteps.

At the age of eighteen Root was now established in the Yorkshire academy, after making the grade from his scholarship. He had also set his sights on moving upwards at the county into the first team. To aid this he decided to play in South Africa for the St Andrew’s Boys school in Bloemfontein, where he scored three centuries and five fifties. He was also developing as a bowler too and his classic offspin has become a useful part of his game.

Joe Root playing for England, Photo Credit, NAPARAZZI, Wikipedia, Creative Commons
Joe Root playing for England, Photo Credit, NAPARAZZI, Wikipedia, Creative Commons

Cricket observers have often commented on Root’s “maturity beyond his years,” while playing for England. His leadership qualities were first noted as a teenager, when he would often advise teammates three times his age on field settings and plans to get batsmen out. His impish grin, often directed at an aggressive fast bowler trying to intimidate him in a Test match was fostered in the tough school of the Yorkshire League. Growing up, Root was always small for his age and older tearaway fast bowlers would see him initially as an easy wicket. They would try to intimidate the small kid in the helmet, but their mood soon changed when all their efforts often resulted in the ball careering to the boundary ropes.

The next summer he made his debut for the Second XI, scoring 57 in a 133 run stand with fellow graduate, Adam Lyth in July 2007. Returning to the Yorkshire Academy he also hit a career best 235 not out against Durham. Two years later a young Root was called into action for the first team at the White Rose County, when he appeared for them in a Pro-40 match against Essex at Headingley. He scored 63 and the Yorkshire public saw their first glimpse of a star in the making.

His rise through the Yorkshire ranks gained the attention of the national selectors and Root was called up for the Under-19 World Cup in New Zealand, where he helped them reach the Quarter Finals. He also enjoyed a spell at The Darren Lehman academy in South Australia, which helped him find the form to be man of the series against Bangladesh U-19s in 2010.

After signing a three year contract for Yorkshire he continued to make first team appearances. His county championship debut came in 2011 and an undefeated 222 against Hampshire in a Championship match brought his name to the attention of many who follow the domestic game. That season he finished with just over 1,000 runs at an average of 36.17 in a relegated team.

When the touring party to India was announced in 2012 Joe Root’s name was included. His England debut came thousands of miles away from both Headingley and Sheffield Collegiate; in Nagpur, India. At 139-5 on a hot turning pitch, this was indeed a baptism of fire for the young Yorkshireman. With true grit and determination he ground out a composed 73 runs in over 200 minutes; the sixth longest innings on debut.

This impressive start to his Test Match career cemented a berth at number six in the batting order and more success was to follow. Against New Zealand on the more familiar turf at Headingley, Root scored 104, his maiden test hundred. The batsman’s form earned him a promotion up the order to open the innings with his captain, Alistair Cook for the 2013 Ashes Series.

When he scored another century at Lord’s against the old enemy it seemed as if Joe could make that position his own and indeed do no wrong with both bat and ball in his hand; as he helped England to a 3-0 series win. During the summer of 2013 Root was involved in an altercation with Australian batsman David Warner at a bar in Birmingham, something which England fans have never forgotten!

The return Ashes series in Australia proved to be quite the opposite experience. This tour, which proved to be one of the worst in the history of English cricket, ended up with them being humiliated 5-0 by their feisty opponents and the urn ripped from their grasp. Root was not the only one to suffer a downturn in form as the fast bowling attack of Mitchell Johnson and Ryan Harris ripped through their batting order time and again. The team which proudly took to the field for the first test at The Gabba became barely recognisable from the one who crumbled into the dust in the last game at The Sydney Cricket Ground. One of the victims was Root, who was dropped along with others for the final test. He had been moved to fill the number three position left by Jonathan Trott, who left the tour for stress related reasons. His subsequent low scores and timid batting displays against a rampant Aussie attack saw him out of the team at the SCG with just an average of 27.42 for the series.

After the fall out from England’s disastrous tour down under the future of England’s test side was under severe scrutiny.

A home series against Sri Lanka and India was approaching and it was time to mend some of the cracks which had appeared within the national set up. Root was re-instated as part of a bright new dawn for English cricket, along with new players such as Gary Ballance and Moeen Ali.

In the summer of 2014 Root was put back into the middle order where he belonged, coming in at number five and thriving once more. In the Lords Test Match against Sri Lanka he hit his maiden double hundred as part of a massive 575-9 dec. The year 2014 saw Joe Root named as one of the winners of the Wisden Cricketer of the Year Award. He has become a fan’s favourite with every boundary and milestone met with a cry of “Roooooot!”

Root was one of the few bright sparks in England’s dismal World Cup performance, becoming the youngest English player to score a century at a World cup. His score of 121 still failed to prevent them falling to a nine wicket defeat and eventually crashing out of the tournament at its group stages.

In this year’s Ashes series he has been an integral part of the England team, which has regained the urn in just fourteen days. Perhaps a marker of things to come was that crucial moment in the first test at Cardiff. On 30-3 he edged the ball to slip, only to be dropped. He went on to make 134 as England amassed 430 in their first innings. He struggled at Lords as the Aussies reverted back to their hostile bowling in an attempt to unsettle the Yorkshireman.

In the test matches at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge, he contributed both with the bat, making 60 and 38* as he helped England chase 121 to win; plus making 130 at Trent Bridge, after taking three catches in Australia’s now infamous 60 all out.

The year 2015 has proved to be the best in his career so far. Since the 1st January he has scored more runs than any other batsman in the world, which has made him rise to the top of the world rankings after the last test match at Trent Bridge. He was also named vice-captain of the England team and is the heir apparent to take over the captaincy from Alistair Cook. At aged just twenty-four, Joe Root has achieved such a lot in cricket and is sure to become one of Yorkshire and England’s finest ever cricketers.