THEY call him ‘The Milkybar Kid’. And today the Milkybars are on Joe Root after he gained his maiden call-up to the England Test squad.
Root, whose nickname derives from the blond schoolboy used to advertise the chocolate bars in television commercials, has a fresh-faced complexion and clean-cut image.
He looks a good deal younger than his 21 years; “Is Rooty old enough to drink?” enquired one message retweeted by Yorkshire first-team coach Jason Gillespie after the team celebrated County Championship promotion last week in a Chelmsford night spot.
Root may or may not need his passport to provide proof of ID, but he will certainly need it to get into India, after he was yesterday selected in a 16-man squad.
If you’re good enough, you’re old enough, or so they say, and England believe Root can flourish in a man’s world.
Although the tall right-hander might give the impression he is whiter than Milkybars themselves, do not be fooled by the innocent exterior.
Beneath the baby-faced appearance lies a mature underbelly – one that suggests Root can rise to the challenge after two good seasons in the Yorkshire first team and some fine performances for England Lions.
Of course, it is undeniable that he would not have secured a passage to India but for the retirement of former captain Andrew Strauss.
Had Strauss opted to continue, Root would have had to bide his time at county level and waited patiently for his opportunity.
As it is, and with England having chosen to leave out Kevin Pietersen as the tedious saga over his international future rumbles along like a cricketing version of the Leveson Inquiry, Root has got his chance earlier than expected.
Only time will tell whether he sinks or swims.
As Yorkshireman of a certain vintage would no doubt caution, Brian Close was handed a similar opportunity in 1949.
Close became – and still is – the youngest man to play Test cricket for England when he made his debut against New Zealand at Old Trafford aged 18 years and 149 days.
Close fell for a duck as England chased quick runs and then managed only 0 and 1 in his next Test on the 1950-51 Ashes tour.
Many felt Close was picked too soon; he was never an England regular and played only 22 Tests in total – a poor return for a man Fred Trueman felt had more natural talent than Garry Sobers.
But when Close toured Australia in the early Fifties, the England set-up was vastly different.
The youngster was badly managed, shunned by some of his senior team-mates and effectively left to his own devices; there is no danger of that happening to Root or anyone else.
Root will receive the best possible support from the England management and a prodigious backroom staff which Close once delightfully described as “a bunch of trick cyclists and god knows what else”.
No young player now would be hung out to dry as Close was then.
Not that there is any reason to suspect that Root will fail.
On the contrary, this opportunity might have come earlier than expected but it is richly deserved and one Root is capable of grabbing with both hands.
So far, he has risen to every challenge in his fledgling career and is regarded by his coaches as a fast learner.
As such, he could just as easily take to Test cricket like a duck to water and establish himself ahead of back-to-back Ashes series next year.
Root’s first-class record, at this stage, is more solid than spectacular: 2,015 runs at 38.
But it is not so much the volume of runs that has impressed England as the manner in which Root has scored them.
When he made 222 not out against Hampshire at Southampton earlier this summer, out of a total of 350-9 declared, it was not so much the double Nelson that attracted attention. It was the way that Root batted, the way that he adapted, the way that he dominated a decent attack.
Of course, he is a product of the same Sheffield Collegiate club that produced Michael Vaughan, and it is interesting to reflect that Vaughan averaged only 36.95 across his first-class career.
To put that into context, Anthony McGrath, who has just completed his 18th season with Yorkshire, averages 36.83.
Although Vaughan faced better bowling than McGrath more often, the fact is that Vaughan played 82 Tests and became England’s most successful Test captain whereas McGrath played only four Tests.
McGrath should perhaps have been called up more often by England but the point is that the selectors spotted something in Vaughan – something they have now apparently spotted in Root.
Since that career-best 222 not out, Root has only once passed fifty in 17 innings – further evidence that England have seen something that goes beyond figures.
They have detected an ice-cool temperament, a young man unlikely to be fazed by the highest level. Above all, they have spotted a player with the talent and determination to succeed, a player who could well become a permanent fixture.
Root may be known as ‘The Milkybar Kid’, but he has a wise head on young shoulders and the talent to prove that appearances, in this case, are thoroughly deceptive.