Hussain urges Root: Don't be shackled by captaincy

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Joe Root must not allow captaincy to shackle his natural instincts as a batsman, former England skipper Nasser Hussain has urged.

The four-match Test series with South Africa, which begins at Lord's on July 6, represents Root's opening challenge as captain.

All eyes will be on the Yorkshireman at the dawning of a new era for England and Hussain wants to see Root play his natural game - although he conceded some minor concessions may be necessary.

"The last thing you want it [captaincy] to do is to inhibit him and make him a blocker and defender and worry and think too much," he told Omnisport at an Investec event.

"I think Joe Root is a naturally gifted player that doesn't worry and doesn't over-complicate the game, same with Ben Stokes as vice-captain - just go out and play and express yourself. But try and improve not only yourself, but also the team.

"The advice I'd give Joe is that his most important thing still is as a batsman. He has to get runs. Captaincy can affect you. He has to get runs, but he's also got to look at [the other] lads in that 'fab four' that they talk about in Virat Kohli, Kane Williamson, Steve Smith - captaincy has affected their batting in a really positive way and that's what we hope will happen to Joe. It might kick him on.

"The one area Joe has struggled with is that he gets out between 60 and 90 a lot - a horrible problem to have!

"He might be 70 not out at Lord's come Thursday and as captain he might think, 'well, I'm not going to play that flashy slog sweep, or dab sweep, or reverse sweep - I'm just going to grind out 180 here because we're going to win this Test match and I want to win my first game as captain'. 

"You never know how you'll take to the role until someone actually does it. I'll give you Virat Kohli as an example. You look at someone like Virat, who is an in-your-face cricketer, energetic, quite attacking, and yet when he captains he's quite defensive and sits in, and is quite successful that way. So you don't know until someone does it what their style and brand will be."

Root is the replacement for Alastair Cook, whose fine county form for Essex continued with a superb 193 against Middlesex. Hussain expects Cook, free of the burdens of captaincy, to flourish for his country and build on his remarkable international record, having scored 11,057 Test runs.

"Going into this series I've never known Alastair in better form and you look at his record, as a Test-match player is phenomenal, arguably the best England have ever had," added Hussain. "Cook is in phenomenal nick, he's absolutely in a great place at the moment.

"He's going to turn up to Lord's, doesn't have to do all the press conferences, talk about the team, talk about his form, talk about why they lost eight Test matches last year, why did they lose 4-0, is your job on the line or whatever.

"All that has gone, all he's got to do is go in the nets and be ready for the first ball Thursday morning if England are batting."