Root to benefit from caution

  • By: David Clough, Press Association Sport England Cricket Reporter
  • Last Updated: December 31 2012, 10:20 GMT

David Clough focuses on England newcomer Joe Root as he looks ahead to the cricket year to come.

Joe Root: Well-made 73 in first Test innings

Joe Root was narrowly beaten by Nick Compton to the opener's role on England's Test tour of India.

For England, and Root, it may well transpire that Andy Flower and Alastair Cook made the right call at the right time.

Pragmatism was required to sense that Compton, at 29 eight years Root's senior, perhaps had the most appropriate credentials to make at least a qualified success of a tough mission.

Someone had to replace the retired Andrew Strauss alongside Cook at the top of the order, in unforgiving climes and on pitches likely to spin from the outset.

Compton had already had to reinvent himself to sustain a first-class career of note after early promise faltered at Middlesex and he started again at Somerset.

On that journey maturity had brought resourcefulness, qualities sure to serve him well against unfamiliar challenges in still less familiar surroundings.

Yet England may believe Root has the greater potential. A patient, well-made 73 in his first innings in Test cricket batting at an unfamiliar position of six is testament to that.

Certainly the advice from Performance Programme batting coach Graham Thorpe - among many others well qualified to have an expert opinion - has long been that he will prove a special player.

Strauss' unexpected retirement forced England's hand, and Root therefore travelled on a senior tour - one of the most exacting too - perhaps a little earlier than they might have intended.

As events have unfolded, however, the experience will surely have been beneficial.

It might not have been so had Root been required to do Compton's job.

Only two years into a first-class career born a world away from the worn surfaces of Mumbai and Kolkata, more harm than good could easily have been done to Root's development.

Instead, a less harsh learning curve came his way.

Compton 'won' the battle of the prospective openers in England's second tour match at the DY Patil Stadium against Mumbai A, and while he therefore graduated to a debut in Ahmedabad, Root instead returned to the same ground to make a big hundred for the Performance Programme against an academy team.

It was close to an ideal introduction for the young man who has progressed through the same hands at Sheffield Collegiate as Michael Vaughan.

He bats in a manner which has already yielded comparison not just with Vaughan, but even the more stoic Geoffrey Boycott.

It is much easier to spot the Vaughan than the Boycott in Root's upright stance and languid approach.

There was surely something of the latter about him too, though in the career-best unbeaten 222 he made, out of only 350 for nine, against Hampshire last summer.

It might have been too soon, damagingly so, if Root had been rushed into Test cricket these past two months, with just four first-class hundreds as yet on his CV.

Compton will deserve a continued opportunity, in New Zealand and then next summer, if England believe he has done a decent job in India.

But Root, that apparent cross between Vaughan and Boycott, may have longer staying power as he determines where he will eventually fit into that illustrious Yorkshire pecking order.


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