Joe Root will ensure England rise to number one in the world Test Match rankings, according to Yorkshire’s Academy director and second-team coach Ian Dews.
Root’s ethic of hard work, obvious ever since Dews first met the Sheffield batsman in his early teens at Emerald Headingley, will be the blueprint for the country’s progression.
After England’s recent 3-0 clean sweep in Sri Lanka, Root made no secret of his goal to leapfrog India from number two in the ICC’s rankings.
Earlier today, it was announced that the 27-year-old – he turns 28 on December 30 – has signed a new contract with the White Rose county, sparking memories of how this star’s journey began.
“As long as I’ve known Joe, his secret has been hard work,” said Dews.
“You could almost replace his middle name with ‘hard work’.
“Joe and Jonny Bairstow are the two examples we use with all of our young players. Jonny for how simple he’s kept his game and Joe for his hard work.
“He will expect that from his players, and that’s why he will build a successful England team.
“Usually when he comes back to us, it’s after a bit of time off. And the two or three days before a game, he works so hard.
“I honestly believe he will make sure England go to number one. He won’t accept short cuts. But they will also enjoy being around him because he’s a great lad.”
The story of Root’s first taste of life at Headingley is a much told one.
In a nutshell, he came down with his father Matt as a 12 or 13-year-old schoolboy for a trial and, beforehand, watched Kevin Sharp, now with Worcestershire, put first-teamer Anthony McGrath through his paces in the indoor nets.
“Joe just asked for the exact same session,” smiled Dews.
“I was running the Academy and Kev was doing the batting.
“It was one of these situations with Joe that he was so small for his age-group that people were saying ‘Yeah, he’s good, but while he doesn’t get out, he doesn’t get many runs’.
“But Kev was really adamant that he was technically brilliant and he asked the right questions.
“He said to me ‘There’s something there, we’ve got to really stick with him’.
“We pushed for him to play higher than his age range, and it was noticeable that when he was faced with extra pace, he could manoeuvre the ball into gaps. He didn’t have to muscle it.
“You could never have predicted he’d get to the level he has done at that stage. Nobody could because there’s always speed bumps on the way.
“There was one year where he hardly scored a run and was a walking lbw candidate.
“He’d grown about six to eight inches, and his head and his legs weren’t working in sync. He was planting his pad and getting out lb. But he didn’t let it faze him. He worked hard to sort it.
“His attention to detail was the thing that stood out for me.
“He was one of the first ones to come in and say ‘I’m going to be opening the batting, so I want to be netting with a new ball or as near as possible to it’.
“For a youngster, that was something that set him apart.
“He was always inquisitive. If you told him something, he’d always ask why.
“When he was made England captain, I was asked a number of times how I thought he’d go. And I wasn’t sure. That was because I hadn’t really seen him do much captaincy with him always playing above his age-group. There were always more senior players around to captain. He was also away a lot with the England age-groups.
“But the one thing I said was ‘He’ll learn and grow quickly into the role’.
“I watched the Sri Lanka series and was impressed. He did a brilliant job.
“I heard or read one comment on Sky or in the papers that was along the lines of ‘This is Joe’s team’.
Lo“I think it may have been Michael Vaughan comparing it to when Nasser Hussain retired (having earlier stepped down as captain) and only then did he feel it was his team.
“It is similar to Alastair Cook just finishing in the summer.
“I would imagine that Joe, who is just under two years into the job, will be stamping his authority on it rather than him just carrying on from Cook.
“I’ve seen him really grow.”
When asked if there was any particular innings that Root had played – at any level – which stood out, Dews said: “There was innings he played for the seconds at Stamford Bridge.
“I can’t remember how many he got, but he went in and we had a tough spell to get through before close.
He just got into his zone and toughed it out.
“They tried everything against him, and it was just a 40-minute snapshot of why he’d go a long way.
“He went on and got runs the following morning. It might have been a 90-odd.
“That night before was when he had earned the right.
“You look at most of his innings throughout his career, he tends to earn the right.”
Dews admits his involvement with Root when he returns to Yorkshire is limited due to his commitments with the Academy and the second team.
He added: “It’s more Andrew Gale and Rich Pyrah who work with him now, but when I do see him I look mainly at his pre-delivery (movements).
“His pre-delivery has always been key. If that’s working for him, I know he won’t go too far wrong.”