Joe Root, the England Test captain, has vowed to be well prepared for the 2017-18 Ashes that will be held in Australia, he said on Thursday (March 30). Root, 26, also believed he could learn from his counterparts – Kane Williamson, Virat Kohli and Steven Smith in particular – who have all excelled in the same role as a captain and the leading batsman of their side when he takes the reins in England’s opening series of the home summer against South Africa in July-August.
It could be extra pressure on Root to succeed both as captain and batsman in the Ashes Down Under, with his performance in the previous series there being forgettable. England were trailing 4-0 as the dressing room boiled over with tension between Kevin Pietersen and other senior players when Root was dropped for the first and only time in his career for the Sydney Test after scoring just one half-century in his last eight innings, accumulating 192 runs at an average of 27.42 in the series. He redeemed himself in the 2015 Ashes, finishing as England’s top scorer with 460 runs at an average of 57.50 with two hundreds and two fifties.
“I look at guys in a similar position to me and the number of games they’ve played; Williamson, Smith and Kohli,” Root told BBC Five Live. “They’ve taken on the captaincy and their games have gone up a level. I like to think that I am in that sort of place in my game.
“I think the responsibility and this position gives me an opportunity to do that.”
Smith and Root have been exchanging the No.1 Test batting ranking for a better part of the last two years, but after the India series where he emerged the highest run-getter on both sides with 499 runs in eight innings at an average of 71.28, Smith has cemented his position at the top of the rankings with Root at No.3 while Williamson and Kohli are ranked at No.2 and No.5 respectively.
Beating Australia has been among the topmost priorities for any English cricketer, and Root agreed that retaining the Ashes in December when England travel to Australia was foremost on his mind when he was named captain.
“Beating Australia is the one thing you desperately want to do,” he said. “We’ve a lot of cricket before we go there. But that has obviously been at the back of my mind since I was offered the captaincy.”
Before Root leads his side in Australia, his first Test as captain will come against South Africa in July in a four-Test series with a three-Test series against West Indies to follow. Root said he had kept tabs on the recently concluded series between India and Australia, and said it gave him a fair idea of how the new-look Australia might shape up in December.
“I’ve kept my eye on it and definitely watched how they’ve gone about things,” he said. “It’s very different the cricket played in India to anywhere else but you get a good sense of the side that is going to line up against you.”
Looking back on the 5-0 whitewash suffered by England in 2013-14, Root said he has learnt from his mistakes on the tour and wouldn’t be caught unawares when the rivalry resumes in December.
“I won’t be caught cold,” Root said. “I know what to expect from what can be quite a hostile environment. That first Test match, when I walked out to bat, I think it did hit me quite hard.
“I think I’ve done all my learning from that tour already,” Root added. “For large periods of that trip, I was spending so much time and energy working on things that other people said I needed to work on – ‘getting forward, bigger stride, into the ball’.
“In reality, they were bowling 95mph bouncers – so it was pointless. I came back from it and thought ‘just strengthen all the things that have served you very well for long periods of time, and slowly but surely work on the rest of it’.
“From that I gained a lot of confidence – and that was a really good way, from being in quite a difficult spot, of getting out of it and feeling good again.”
England begin their home summer by hosting the Champions Trophy in June.