IT was on the strength of his batting that Joe Root forced his way into the England team but Martyn Moxon believes the young Yorkshireman can become a genuine all-rounder at international level.
Root made his England debut against India last month, scoring 73 and 20 in the fourth and final Test in Nagpur to help England seal their first Test series victory in India for almost 30 years.
But Moxon, the former Yorkshire and England opening batsman and current Yorkshire director of cricket, believes Root’s second string talent of off-spin bowling will come increasingly to the fore in the coming months.
It is why he is predicting a long and successful future for the 22-year-old, whom he insists has the ability not only to score significant runs at the highest level but to contribute significantly in the wickets stakes too.
“I think Joe is capable of developing into a genuine all-rounder,” said Moxon, who has overseen the Sheffield-born player’s development from budding county cricketer to international star.
“It’s something I’ve thought for quite a while because I definitely believe the potential is there.
“Joe needs to bowl more at that level and to be given the opportunity, but I think his bowling could well be vital for England going forward.
“I think he will predominantly be a batsman who bowls rather than a frontline spinner, but he could well provide valuable back-up to the likes of Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar.”
Root showed glimpses of his bowling potential during his one-day international debut against India last week.
Having not been needed to bat as England made 325-4 in the game at Rajkot, he bowled nine overs as the tourists closed out a nine-run victory.
Although Root went wicketless and conceded 51 runs, he performed well enough to show he offers another useful spin option.
Moxon believes it is an option that could be utilised increasingly and revealed that Root has been working hard to improve that side of his game.
“Joe’s been doing a lot of work on his bowling with England,” said Moxon.
“He’s been working at the various technical aspects.
“In particular, Joe’s been looking at trying to drive his back leg more towards the target as he tends to bowl around himself a little bit at the moment.
“England have been trying to get him to get his right knee round a bit more which, in turn, will help him spin the ball more.”
Important to Root’s immediate development will be the opportunities he receives at Yorkshire, where he will be striving to provide increasing support to frontline spinners Azeem Rafiq and Adil Rashid.
Root has bowled only 150.3 overs in first-class cricket but that figure will soon swell as he advances his fledgling career.
“From our point of view we’ll be looking to give Joe as many bowling opportunities as possible,” added Moxon.
“We’ve used his bowling in the past in Twenty20 cricket, where he has often been effective bowling the opening over of an innings for us.
“Of course, it all depends on the make-up of our side as to how much he bowls, while we don’t know how much we’ll be seeing of him due to international commitments. But we’ll certainly be doing our best to help him continue his development.”
One of Root’s strengths is his versatility which enables him to provide not only effective back-up in the bowling department, but the flexibility to bat anywhere in the top-order.
That can only increase his chances of playing all three forms of the game regularly for England, with Root as potentially suited to opening the innings in Test cricket, for example, as he is to playing a middle-order role.
“Joe can pretty much bat anywhere,” added Moxon.
“It’s one of his biggest attributes and he’s a very adaptable young player.
“Nick Compton will probably get the green light to open the batting in the forthcoming Test series in New Zealand, but there’s no reason why Joe couldn’t have a long-term future in that role going forward.
“Only time will tell how England want to use him.
“But I know they like the fact that he’s versatile along with his mental strength and general work ethic.”
England and Sussex last night moved to play down speculation that Sarah Taylor could become the first woman to play county second team cricket.
Taylor, the England wicketkeeper-batsman, has been the subject of informal dialogue between Sussex and England women’s coach Mark Lane about the possibility of her representing the county’s second string.
But the England and Wales Cricket Board last night issued a press release in which they stressed that dialogue is at “a very embryonic stage”, while Mark Robinson, the Sussex cricket manager and former Yorkshire pace bowler, clarified the position from the club’s point of view.
“There may be an opportunity for Sarah in the future, but, at the moment, the key thing is for her to train with the second XI,” said Robinson.
“Then we can see if she has adapted to the environment and then, if we have an opportunity to play her, we can potentially take it a step further.”