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— 15 February 2017

It is usually a cliche to suggest a certain player was always destined for the very top of the game, but with Joe Root there is a great deal of truth in that statement.

On Monday morning, he was named as England’s 80th Test captain in place of Alastair Cook, the seventh Yorkshireman to take on the role.

Shortly afterwards, his county coach Andrew Gale recalled: “I remember a 13-year-old Joe asking Kevin Sharp what he needed to do to play for England. As a 13-year-old, that’s a pretty big statement to make.”

Joe came through the Sheffield Collegiate club, the same path Michael Vaughan had trodden. The club was central to the Root family, with father Matthew a regular and valued first-teamer and younger brother Billy also making progress.

Billy also played age-group cricket for Yorkshire, and he is now on the professional staff at Nottinghamshire.

The blonde haired kid from Sheffield, dubbed the Milky Bar Kid by team-mates, is now known the world over thanks to runs galore across all three formats of the international game.

To date, he has scored 8,469 runs from 157 internationals, including 4,594 runs from 53 Test Matches with eleven scores of 100 or more. He is a two-time Ashes winner to boot.

But how did Root become one of the game’s modern day superstars?
His first involvement with Yorkshire was, indeed, as a 13-year-old on a county scholarship, with former White Rose batting coach Sharp the first to take him under his wing.

“It was incredible,” recalled Sharp, who will be at Lord’s on July 6, the first day of the South Africa Test, as a guest of Joe’s.

“As club batting coach, what I used to do with a scholar as young as that was arrange for them to come to Headingley and get to know them.

“So Matthew, his dad, brought him up one evening after school. We had a chat and did a bit of work in the nets. Immediately, he impressed.

“I’d arranged to meet Joe about 5pm.

“Beforehand, I was having a session with Anthony McGrath. But, unbeknown to me, Joe and his dad had arrived a little bit early and were watching from the bar area of the Indoor School.

“When I got to meet Joe, we went to chat in the office.

“I was asking about his game and what he was good at and not so good at. It was like talking to an adult, he could have been 25-year-old.

“I remember thinking very clearly ‘if you can bat as well as you can talk, you’re going to be good’.

“We then had about half an hour left, so I asked whether he wanted to do anything in the nets’. He said ‘yes, please’.

“I wanted to challenge him, so I asked what he wanted to do. He said ‘I want the same session Anthony McGrath’s just had’.

“Now, that was quite an intensive session. I was throwing a new ball at Mags, we had set up a game situation, and I had put cones out for slips fielders and gully, short-leg, etc.

“If you can picture it, he’s smiling away and looking at me – and he looks right into your eyes. I said ‘I can’t do that because I’ll hurt you’.

“He looked at me again, smiled and said ‘I’ll be alright’.

“Anyway, this got my beans going. I was thinking ‘what the hell’s going on?’ I’d never experienced anything like it.

“So I told him to get all his protective equipment on, his helmet, chest guard, box, inside thigh guard, the lot because I’m coming for you. He just said ‘right, good’.

“Anyway, after I’d set it up, I said ‘right Joe, we’ve got 15 minutes, you’ve asked for this, and I’m not going to be your friend. Do you understand?’ He smiled, nodded and said ‘that’s fine’.

“I was still thinking ‘what’s going on?’

“So I run in with this new ball, and I could throw then as well. But he’s playing beautifully. It was clear he could play as well as talk.

“Then, that little voice in my head said ‘bowl him a bouncer’. The other voice said ‘I can’t do that. If I hit him on the head, I’ll be in trouble’.

“I thought ‘no, sod it, I’m going to let him have one’.

“It was a beauty, just clipping his grille. I followed through and stared at him. But he just looked at me, smiled and nodded and said ‘ooh, that were a good ball’. It was priceless.

“After we’d finished, I was blown away. I was adamant we’d found something special.

“I went upstairs to Ian Dews, our Academy director, who was in his office. I said ‘I’ve had this little Joe Root in. I’m going to make a statement here – he’ll open the batting for Yorkshire one day’.

“Here we are today.

“A new ball around his earholes was what he asked for, and it was if he was preparing himself for the top level even then.”

Root went on to captain Yorkshire at under 13s, 15s and 17s level as well as the county’s Academy team.

He debuted for the first team towards the end of the 2009 summer, scoring an encouraging 63 in a 40-over match against Essex at Headingley. Ironically, Alastair Cook was playing for the opposition.

A versatile batsman, who many thought would make his mark as an opener for England and not further down the order, he did actually play a lot of his early first-team cricket for the county against the new ball.

He scored a particularly memorable double hundred against Hampshire on a spicy pitch at Southampton in 2012.

That year proved to be particularly memorable for Root.

He was capped by Yorkshire, he played at the Champions League T20 in South Africa, was named as the PCA’s and Cricket Writers’ Club’s Young Player of the Year and made his Test debut against India at Nagpur, scoring a polished 73.

The following summer saw him score his maiden Test century against New Zealand at Headingley, with the reception he received from the crowd spine tingling.

There was a bump in the road to come, however.

He was dropped from the fifth Test at Sydney in early 2014 as England suffered a humiliating 5-0 Ashes whitewash. But, determined to bounce back, Root used that disappointment as motivation.

In 2014, he was named in the ICC’s Test team of the Year, following on from a maiden one-day international century in the West Indies whilst nursing a broken thumb.

After struggling to get to grips with white ball cricket in the early stages of his first-team career with Yorkshire, he was now progressing extremely nicely.

In 2015, the year he became England’s vice captain, he scored 1,278 Test runs to become the number one ranked batsman in the world, a title he has held on a few occasions since.

The second of two career Test double centuries, his highest of 254, came against Pakistan at Emirates Old Trafford last summer before becoming a first time father to baby Alfred and replacing Cook as Test captain, making it a special start to 2017.

“I thought it would come one day,” added Sharp, of the England captaincy. “He’s the sort of lad, the day I met him, you knew there was something special.

“He’s just a nice package of a lad. He’s got a high work ethic, likes to be challenged, loves the big stage and is a good team man.”

Gale added: “To have one of our own, a Yorkie, captaining the country, we’re immensely proud of Joe.

“He’s a cheeky chap is Joe. He’s bubbly around the dressing room, he’s an infectious character, but ultimately he’s got the respect of all his team-mates.

“When he speaks about cricket, everyone listens.

“That will stand him in good stead when he takes over from Alastair in his first Test.

“He doesn’t take himself too seriously, and he thrives under the pressure.

“We can see the way he’s performed over the last few years, leading the batsmen of England. The form he’s been in, he thrives on leading from the front.

“I think he’ll be a fantastic captain for England.

“Him captaining the side, we’re going to see a different brand of cricket from England.

“He’s very attack minded, but he’s willing to think outside the box as well and tinker with his field and bowlers.

“I think he was (destined to be England captain).

“I remember him making his one-day debut against Essex. He was a small young lad who looked like the Milky Bar kid and couldn’t get the ball off the square. Since then, he’s learnt very quickly.

“He’s a very level-headed character. That’s been one of his strengths.

“Whether he gets out for none or he gets a double hundred, he’s still the same Joe Root around the dressing room.

“I think that’s what you need to be as a captain because that rubs off on your team-mates. That will be really good for him.

“Ultimately, as a captain, you’re only as good as the players around you.

“England have got a fantastic side at the minute. They’ve grown that over the last number of years. Although the winter didn’t go to plan, they’ve got a big year ahead with South Africa, the West Indies and then the big one, the Ashes.

“Everything’s set out for Joe to be successful.”