Joe Root keen to lead from the front against Australia
Joe Root has vowed to lead from the front as he strives to make good on his childhood dream of captaining England to Ashes glory.
Root has won the urn twice already, in 2013 and 2015, but oversaw a humbling 4-0 defeat Down Under in his first attempt as skipper 18 months ago.
On Thursday he will step out at Edgbaston for the first of five Tests against the old enemy, driven to put the record straight and achieve an ambition years in the making.
Asked what it would mean to join the ranks of England’s Ashes winning captains, he said: “I dreamed about it from being a little boy and obviously it became more real having been put in a position to have that opportunity.
“It’s easy to get carried away but it is something growing up as a kid you want to be a part of. When you get the opportunity to captain your country, that’s a privilege for anyone and it’s an opportunity for this team to put themselves in the bracket with some famous teams.”
Root has waited long enough to banish the bad memories of his last red-ball outing against Australia, which he ended battling a crippling bout of gastroenteritis, unable to go down with the ship.
“I ended up on a drip. The doctor told me I wasn’t going back out, that I wasn’t in a fit state to play,” he recalled.
“The next thing I remember was waking up about 6.30pm after the game and going back to the hotel. I wasn’t in a great place and it was disappointing to finish the tour in that manner. As captain, you feel like you are putting your responsibilities onto someone else.”
There is no question of passing the buck this time around, Root having volunteered to shoulder the burden of the problematic number three position.
That is where head coach Trevor Bayliss has long wanted him to bat and Root has shelved his prior concerns, accepting his status as the best batsman in the side and the one most likely to put the visiting attack under pressure.
“It gives me an opportunity to lead from the front,” he said of his promotion.
“I think there are a number of different ways you can lead and this is just another opportunity to take my leadership forward and show the rest of the group that it is something I’m more than prepared to do, that I’m not expecting anyone to do something that I wouldn’t.
“I’ve always thought the best thing for the team is for me to score runs and for a long time my record at number four suggested that would be the best thing for me.
“But, where we are as a team currently and where I’m at as a captain, I’m a good enough player to be able to make the same returns at three. Hopefully this can be a series where I stamp my authority in the role and make it my own.”
England chose to name their XI on the eve of the match, confirming expectations that Jofra Archer would be kept on ice.
The Barbados-born paceman is certain to make his debut at some point in the series following his spectacular contributions to the triumphant World Cup campaign but lingering concerns over a side strain, coupled with fierce competition for bowling places, mean he must wait.
Instead, Root has the luxury of calling on the most prolific seamer in Test history, James Anderson, and two men in Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes who combined to bowl Ireland out for 38 last week.
“I wouldn’t have named this team if I wasn’t confident. We looked at conditions and what we thought was best to take 20 wickets here,” said Root.
“Jofra is coming back from a very serious injury. This also allows him time to get absolutely ready and fit. We need to make sure his workloads are up and ready to go for later in the series if he needs to make an impact.”
Root is one of six players who featured in England’s epic World Cup win little more than a fortnight ago, an experience he feels will continue to stand the side in good stead when the pressure is on.
“I think if you look back at that final and everything it threw at the group that played in it, those are experiences you can hold with you forever,” he said.
“It will be interesting to see that unfold in the series but it can only be a positive and that’s great for our group.”