Joe Root portrait brick wall (Getty)Joe Root portrait brick wall (Getty) © Copyright

Rooooooooot!

In November last year, a baby-faced lad from Sheffield became the undisputed number one batsman in world cricket. He may not have stayed there for long, such are the vagaries of the ICC rankings, but Joe Root, 25, remains one of the most talented players in the world, and now has his sights set on helping England win the World Twenty20 in India. We sat down with Joe to discuss his stunning success, smashing boundaries, and pulling down Stuart Broad’s trousers.

Are you and the team ​feeling confident for the World T20​?
I think so. Last summer, we won both T20s against very, very strong T20 nations [New Zealand and Australia]. That was a real positive – we’ve got a lot of very young, exciting players who are inexperienced, which might mean we are a little bit inconsistent. But when it comes to T20 cricket, sometimes you need people who are a bit raw, and you just let them go out and express themselves. One moment of magic with bat or ball can turn a game on its head. And that’s the best thing about our position at the minute – we have a lot of talent in the squad who are able to do that.

Is playing T20 more enjoyable than Test cricket?
It’s a completely different entity. You’ve got to take it for what it is. It’s almost like playing a different sport. If you try to change the way you play completely between the three, it can be a bit of a struggle. So for me, over the last year, it’s been trying to make sure my game is in a place where it’s adaptable – of course there will be small changes I have to make, but not massive drastic ones, because they’ll just make it very difficult to go back to other formats. 

As a batsman, there can’t be a better feeling than hitting boundaries, and T20 is full of them.
Yeah, and you can experiment a bit and be a bit funky and play all sorts of different shots. You see someone like [AB] De Villiers playing scoops here and there, and then smacking it out of the park straight. 

Joe Root England T20 (Getty images)

 

What did you think when you first heard England fans chanting ‘Roooooooot’ – did you think people were booing you?
It took me a couple of seconds – I think it was at Lord’s against New Zealand when I first heard it. I didn’t know what to expect. You hear the noise but you’re not concentrating on it. It’s obviously caught on a bit now, and I find it quite amusing.

It must be nice to have your own chant, though?
It’s nice, yeah, but the runs I score are still the most important thing.

You’ve been in ridiculous form for the last 12 months – was there one thing that made that happen?
It might sound stupid, but not focusing too much on my weaknesses in practice, and just really honing in on my strengths. Doing that gave me confidence in knowing that if certain balls came in certain areas, I’d be able to hit them for four. I was looking to score and having that mentality of always putting pressure on the opposition and taking the game back to them. Of course, there are times when it doesn’t work and you can occasionally look quite silly, brash and reckless.

You star in quite a few YouTube videos with your team-mates. Is showing off your lighter side important to you?
Cricket is one of the biggest loves of my life; I’ve been playing since I could walk. The fact that I’m now playing for England, and all over the world, is fantastic, and I just want to enjoy every minute of it with all the lads.

What about that press conference when Alastair Cook mentioned “Broad’s length” and you kept cracking up?
I don’t know what he was going on about that for – I thought it was very inappropriate for that situation…! I’m sure other people would have picked up on it anyway even if I hadn’t. I’ve told him since to be very careful about what he says.

And there’s the time you pulled down Stuart Broad’s trousers in training?
Broady seems to be a regular theme. We were playing football and he was like Sol Campbell; he was touch-tight marking me and I couldn’t get away from him, so it was just a way of trying to lose my marker. Maybe I took it a bit far, but it seemed to work because we ended up scoring while 
he was chasing me around the field. 

How long did he chase you for? The video cuts off in the middle.
No idea, it felt like he was chasing me for about 800 metres. 

You should’ve had the GPS vest on that day.
I would’ve got a lot of points for that!

With the busy schedule, do you ever have time at home to switch off?
Yeah, absolutely – it’s very important to do that. You need to make sure you give yourself opportunities to not go mental but enjoy some time off. Have the odd night out, go and spend time with your mates playing golf or going for a beer – just normal things. We spend a lot of time on the road, so it’s important to enjoy those periods at home. That way, you can concentrate on your cricket when you need to.

Joe Root close up portrait (Getty images)

 

You have a very young-looking face – do you always get ID’d?
Even at the Co-op getting a crate of six beers, I get ID’d! It’s just the way things are, I’m afraid. Hopefully it stays this way for 20 or 30 years and I can reap the rewards then! 

You like your rugby league – do you go much when you’re home?
I don’t really. When we’re away, I stream it. I get really into it. The Grand Final last year was great – it was Yorkshire v Lancashire [Leeds v Wigan], and me and Jimmy [Anderson] were watching it and texting each other from our rooms.
It was a bit sad really, as we should’ve been watching it together, but I think we’d had a tough day and both just crashed in our rooms. It was a brilliant game, though. It’s always great to enjoy other sports as well.

You’re also a Sheffield United fan – do you go to Bramall Lane much?
Not loads, but I go when I can. Sometimes I’m only home for a few days every few months, so there’s often just not a game on when I’m back. I still follow them, though.

When you first played for Yorkshire you were presented with Michael Vaughan’s thigh pad – do you still have it?
Yeah, it’s in the boot of my car. It goes everywhere with me at home. I was going to pack it for the [winter] tour but my bag’s absolutely full to the rafters so I couldn’t get it in. It was a huge honour. For him to be kind enough to donate that to me was a special feeling. It will stay with me for the rest of my career and we’ll see if there’s an up and coming batsman who maybe can carry on the tradition.

Are you allowed to pass it on, or do you have to keep it?
Well maybe we can do something different – like a box, maybe? We’ll see how things go! 

Etihad Airways are the first ever official airline partner of the England Cricket teams. Encompassing England’s domestic international and overseas cricket tours, all England national teams fly with Etihad Airways as part of the partnership. Etihad Airways’ other partnerships include Manchester City FC, New York City FC, Melbourne City FC and F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, plus others. For further info go to etihad.com

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