England middle-order batsman Joe Root has stated that the newly given vice-captaincy role to him came as a pleasant surprise.
Elaborating on the development, Root seemed happy to get the role at a time when he is going through a purple patch with the willow.
“I only found out about it the day before the announcement – I got a call from Andrew Strauss saying that was the role he wanted me to fulfil in the side and obviously I was incredibly pleased and proud to have the opportunity,” said Root.
“I didn’t really expect it – it wasn’t necessarily something I necessarily thought would happen but to get this opportunity now, at this stage of my career is very nice.”
With England set to have a tough season ahead, Root is very much aware of the challenges that come with his new role.
Root hopes to contribute in the best way possible by being an ally to his skipper Alastair Cook whose captaincy will be under the scanner during the summer.
“I’m really looking forward to the summer ahead now, it should be a really interesting, exciting summer.
“I won’t have any involvement off the field – I’ll just be trying to help Cooky out when I can, if he wants any input from me or to ask any questions.
“I’ll be there to support him and to make his life a little bit easier."
Cook compiled his first Test century after two years in the Barbados Test against West Indies earlier this month.
With a lot of responsibility hinging on England’s top-order during the summer, Root sounded confident about Cook’s form.
“There’s not many better players to learn captaincy under than Cooky and ever since I’ve come into the team, he’s been our leader.
“He’s done really well – obviously it has been a tough year or so but it’s great to see him back into form now.
“He played exceptionally well in the last two Test matches against the West Indies and I think him as much as anyone will be looking forward to getting back out there and putting some big scores on the board.”
The 24-year-old was generous in his praise when asked about Ian Bell, the man Root replaced as vice-captain.
Terming Bell as a role-model, Root hopes to emulate his senior batsman in the vice-captaincy role over the span of the tenure.
“I’ve seen Ian Bell being supportive of Cooky and helping him out when he can as vice-captain, which is what I want to do.
“Like Ian, I want to be speaking up in team meetings and starting to think about the game from a more tactical front.
“That’s something you always want to do anyway but more so in that position of vice-captain.”
Although Bell is ageing, Root believes the stylish batsman still has a lot more to offer to English cricket in the coming years.
Root feels that Bell’s rich experience will come in handy for the youngsters in the side who will learn a lot from the veteran.
Citing Bell’s knocks in the recently concluded West Indies tour as an example, Root is confident of the positive influence the 33-year-old will have on the rookie players.
“Belly is absolutely still a big part of England’s future – he’s an absolutely fantastic player and he’s proven that over a number of years.
“With him being one of the most senior players and all the experience he’s got, is going to be absolutely massive for us this summer.
“He helps the young lads coming through in the side but also with his own personal performances.
“You saw in that first Test match in the West Indies, how important that knock was and I’m sure he’ll do that a number of times this summer as well.”
Root has been in tremendous form over the last one year notching up two centuries and six fifties from his previous 10 Test innings.
Sounding confident on his golden run with the bat, Root hopes he can maintain the form going into the series against New Zealand and Australia.
“Personally, I feel good right now. I felt I played nicely in the West Indies, especially in the first two games although I’m a bit disappointed if you like that I didn’t go on in either innings of that first Test match.
“I felt throughout the series that my feet were moving well and that I was scoring at a reasonable rate, so hopefully that can continue.”
Despite being in top form with the blade, Root isn’t willing to take things for granted.
Stressing on the need to improve all the time, Root is aware that good form cannot last forever.
“Obviously it’s not always going to be like that and we’ve got some great opposition coming over this summer, so we’re going to have to play exceptionally well and I am as well on a personal front.
“Hopefully I can continue the way I’ve played and keep improving, more importantly.”
Root had great words to say about his Yorkshire coach Jason Gillespie who is tipped to take over as England coach following Moores’ departure.
Dwelling on Gillespie’s work ethics as coach, Root seemed visibly excited at the possibility of working with the former Australian pacer again.
“I've loved working with Jason at Yorkshire, so would love to do so for England.
“He keeps things simple and you've seen what a good job he has done with the Yorkshire setup.
“I have really enjoyed working with him and having him as a coach.
"His enthusiasm always comes across in his coaching – he loves what he's doing and passes that on to you through his team talks and the way he coaches.”
Root knows it’s too early to make a confirmation on Gillespie’s appointment but sounded optimistic of the development.
Citing Gillespie’s international experience as a massive advantage, Root backed Gillespie to undertake England’s coaching role.
“People have got to make decisions that are completely out of my hands.
“Of course his experience at international level is going to be a benefit but he's great with everyone in and around the squad.
"You catch that vibe off him and take it into the games.
“Regardless of what level you are, he has a very good way with everyone in the dressing room."
England have had an impressive record in Tests at home over the years but that is likely to be challenged this summer like never before.
A vastly improved New Zealand side led by Brendon McCullum are set to play a two-match series which begins later this month that shall be followed by the intense Ashes series from July.
Unfazed by the mounting challenges, Root is quietly confident of England’s chances in the two high-profile series.
Root feels that the conditions at home will give England an advantage over their two powerful opponents.
“I’m definitely confident we can match both those teams on the pitch.
“I think in home conditions as well, we’ve got a slight advantage.
“We know that everyone we’ve got in that Test side and that Test squad are more than capable of putting in fine performances.
“I’m really looking forward to getting out there next Thursday and getting off to a good start.”
Root is aware of the significance of an Ashes win, having experienced it during the home series in 2013.
The vice-captain rated the Ashes rivalry as the biggest thing in Test cricket and hopes England can reclaim the urn in July.
“I love it – that’s the pinnacle of test cricket for me.
“We play against some great sides, and New Zealand are one of them, but Ashes cricket has that extra bit to it.
“Everyone comes together as a nation to watch it and we’re desperate to come back from that horrible series in Australia and put in some really good performances.
“Hopefully we can win back the Ashes this time.”
Root is happy with the emergence of fresh talents in the England setup and is happy to see the younger players take more responsibility.
With many of the core group of seniors in the England team no longer present in the squad, Root expects the younger crop of players to put up a good show across the summer.
“I think it’s great that the new crop of younger guys are starting to come through now.
“After that series in Australia, we had a lot of experienced guys leave the side and it’s given opportunity for people like Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes and Chris Jordan to come in and put performances together.
“They’ve done that, they’ve proved that and this summer is going to have to be a season where they look to cement their spot.
“I think they’re all talented enough to do it – it’s just going out there and putting in the runs, the wickets and the catches that you need to do that. They’re all more than capable.”
There is a good mix of youth and experience in the current England team according to Root and the right-handed batsman explained the importance of it.
“That balance is really important – you need to learn from the people who have had the experience previously and to chat about the game and to help you through certain situations you might not have been in before.
“Those more experienced guys are going to be vital, not only have they got experience but they’re very skilful players as well.
“They’re very important to England cricket, so hopefully they will come out and have a good summer too.”
Root hailed veteran seamer James Anderson who became the highest wicket-taker for England during the Test series in West Indies.
Lauding Anderson’s commitment to English cricket, Root opined that the pacer deserved every bit of the success.
“It was a fantastic moment when Jimmy became England’s all-time leading wicket taker.
“It was so nice for him to have his whole family out there – Mum, Dad, his two little girls and his wife.
“You could see what it meant to them on the big screen from the field.
“He’s played for England for a number of years now, since I was about 11 or 12 years old, something like that.
He has been a big part of England cricket for so many years, that he fully deserves to achieve something so special.”
Recollecting his old memories of Anderson as a teen, Root expressed happiness at being able to play alongside the 32-year-old.
“I definitely remember watching and admiring him when I was growing up – I certainly remember those terrible haircuts with the red in there and the blond streaks.
“For me, when I started watching international cricket, he was part of the side, so to now get the opportunity to play alongside him is fantastic.”
Root attributed his stupendous success in Tests to the County Championship in England which he believes has strengthened his game as a batsman.
The quality exposure available to young players in the tournament is what Root believes has been of great help to him.
“Playing in the LV= County Championship massive helped me and I’ve been lucky enough to play alongside a lot of experience players over the years.
“There were a lot when I first got into the England team and there were when I first started out at Yorkshire – people like Anthony McGrath were a massive help to me.
“The LV= County Championship does stand you in good stead – you’ve obviously got to go through county cricket to play international cricket and I was lucky to have the opportunity to learn from some of the best in the system.”
Root also termed Yorkshire’s title win last year as a huge achievement in his career and hopes his side can replicate it this season as well.
“It’s the breeding ground for international cricket and more importantly it’s where you play for your county and have the opportunity to win the County Championship.
“Winning it last year was one of my career highlights and to do it with your mates from 15, 16 years old is really rewarding.
“Hopefully it can happen again."
Root seemed excited when asked about working with Andrew Strauss who recently took over as Director of England Cricket.
With England going through a transition phase, Root opined that Strauss will be a major cog around which the national side’s future will revolve.
The vice-captain also stressed on the importance of putting in solid performances on the field rather than thinking about the developments off it.
“I think Andrew Strauss has got a big role to play in England’s future now and it is going to be really interesting to see how things develop.
“It’s an exciting summer coming up, we’ve got some tough opposition coming out here and his experience can only help.
“As players, we’ve got a responsibility to go out there to put some really strong performances in, win some games and make his job as easy as possible.
“His role is for him to discuss but all I can talk about is making his life easier by going out there as players and winning games of cricket.
“That’s all we can worry about – getting on the field and doing our best.”
Root is unaware of his teammates’ reactions to Strauss appointment to the new role and is looking forward to holding group meetings with the latter.
“I’ve not spoken to any of the other lads since his appointment, other than a few text messages here and there, so I don’t know what the feeling is.
“We get together as a group next Monday and I think we’ll have discussions then.
“I’m sure Andrew will come and speak to us but that’s something we’ll discuss as a squad when we come together.”
The first Test between England and New Zealand will kick-off on 21st May at Lord's.
Joe Root was speaking at the filming of the LV = Broken Through video. To keep up to date with the LV= County Championship visit LV.com/cricket or follow @LV_Cricket on Twitter.
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