JOE ROOT has said that it will be one of the proudest moments of his life when he leads out England for the first time at Headingley.
The Yorkshireman will captain his country for the first time at his home ground today as England strive to wrap up the series against the West Indies.
This will be Root’s sixth Test as captain since he replaced Alastair Cook, and he summed up what it will mean to him to take charge at the ground where he grew up playing and watching the game.
“It’s a very proud moment,” said the 26-year-old from Sheffield.
“I have a lot of fond memories as a kid of watching Test cricket and county cricket at Headingley, and then to get the opportunity to play both of those and now lead out England here is very special.
“I remember coming here as a young boy and watching Yorkshire in a Roses game, a four-day game; I think we came on the second day. Obviously, I wanted to be a part of it straight away.
“Then the first Test match I saw here was against India. I think they only lost one wicket all day, India, and I was desperate for Sachin (Tendulkar) to get in, but he never got in.
“Obviously, any opportunity to captain England, you’re always looking forward to it, but to be at home, a place where I’ve played a lot of cricket and grown up learning the game, watching the game, it means a lot.
“It’s also a proud moment for my family, and they’ll be coming here in force, and there’s a strong contingent coming from Sheffield.
“I’m sure they’ll have a good week, and hopefully we can provide some good cricket for them.”
Root has made an excellent start to his captaincy career, both in terms of the role and his form with the bat.
He has led the side with skill and authority, guiding them to a 3-1 win over South Africa and then a thumping innings victory in last week’s opening Test of the three-match series against the West Indies at Edgbaston.
Root has scored 597 runs in his five Tests in charge at an average of 66, with two hundreds and three fifties, including 136 in the Edgbaston game.
If he manages another half-century at Headingley, he would equal the world record of South Africa’s AB de Villiers by passing fifty for a 12th consecutive Test.
I have a lot of fond memories as a kid of watching Test cricket and county cricket at Headingley, and then to get the opportunity to play both of those and now lead out England here is very special.England captain Joe Root
“I wish it (the record) was for hundreds and not fifties,” quipped Root, whose run began last October against Bangladesh in Dhaka.
“I suppose you go out there and just try and score as many runs as you can every time anyway, so it’s not going to make a difference to how I’m going to approach this week.
“If anything, it’s nice to know that, over a period of time, I’ve been quite consistent in terms of helping us get decent scores.
“This is just a great chance to come home and hopefully go out and make a big score.”
Despite prolific overall form at home and abroad, with Root having hit 5,191 runs in his 58 Tests at an average of 54, he joked that he has hit “a bit of a dry patch” in Tests at Headingley.
After his maiden Test hundred there against New Zealand in 2013, he has made only 73 runs in six Test innings at Leeds, where his last three scores have been 0, 0 and 1.
His overriding concern, however, is winning this series as England embark on their penultimate Test match before the Ashes, with the captaincy having so far proved to be everything that he hoped it would be.
“It’s been very enjoyable,” he reflected. “We’re playing some really good cricket, so that does help.
“The challenge is to continue to try and do that, to find ways to overcome the little challenges that we have ahead of us along the way.
“We want to try and keep pushing ourselves forward as a team and finding ways that get the best out of everyone individually, which will ultimately make us a stronger side.”
Root, who has captained one first-class game at Headingley, when he led Yorkshire to a draw against Somerset in their final County Championship match of 2014, has rapidly gained respect as a leader.
Trevor Bayliss, the England head coach, said that the Yorkshireman is not afraid to say some stern words when necessary, although Root insists that he does not go in for the rod-of-iron approach.
Asked if he has had to administer any rollockings, he quipped: “Not really, I’m waiting for that opportunity, I suppose.”
But Root made it clear: “I wouldn’t say that I’m the sort of bloke that will go out there with a hairdryer and give someone a massive spray.
“We know as a side how things should be done, and I think we’re generally on the ball when it comes to making sure that we’re all pulling in the same direction.”