Great year for Yorkshire’s Joe Root worthy of far more accolades

SOCIAL media platforms spewed with indignation when Joe Root was overlooked for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year shortlist.

England's Joe Root celebrates their series victory during day four of the Fifth Investec Ashes Test at The Kia Oval, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday August 23, 2015. See PA story CRICKET England. Photo credit should read: Philip Brown/Pool/PA Wire. Editorial use only. No commercial use without prior written consent of the ECB. Still image use only no moving images to emulate broadcast. No removing or obscuring of sponsor logos. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 for further information

“How dare they?” was the common reaction when the corporation snubbed a man who not only helped England win the Ashes series, but also rose to No 1 in the world Test batting rankings – the first Englishman to do so since fellow Yorkshireman Michael Vaughan in 2002.

Inevitably, the decision reopened the debate about cricket’s profile after a decade locked behind a paywall on Sky television where once it was available on the BBC, with Root himself admitting that it was “a bit of a wake-up call for the game”.

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Not that the man himself was unduly concerned from a personal point of view.

After all, in his first year at King Ecgbert’s school in Dore, the Sheffield suburb in which he grew up, Root experienced something similar when he missed out on the school’s sports personality award.

“There were four nominees for this award,” he explains in his new book Bringing Home The Ashes, “and I was absolutely gutted when I lost out to a girl in the sixth form who did athletics.

“‘This is rubbish. How can they possibly give it to someone who does running and jumping? There is no skill involved in that at all,’ I thought.

“To be fair,” Root concludes, “a collection of Olympic, Commonwealth and World Championship gold medals in heptathlon suggest Jessica Ennis-Hill was a worthy recipient.”

Ennis-Hill beat him to it again, one of 12 nominees for the SPOTY award won by tennis star Andy Murray in Belfast on Sunday.

Root, meanwhile, had to content himself with a place in the International Cricket Council Test Team of the Year alongside England colleagues Alastair Cook and Stuart Broad.

But on the basis that all awards are subjective – and invariably not worth the paper they are written on – the SPOTY snub was no more than a minor irritation.

The simple fact is that Root does not require recognition from the BBC or anyone else to confirm what is palpably obvious: that he has had an outstanding 2015 and is now indisputably one of the finest batsmen in the world.

It would seem as good a time as any, therefore, to make his maiden venture into print, and anyone fearing that his book is just another “life story” by a twenty-something who, by definition, has only been alive for twenty-something years, need not be concerned.

Why, the clue is in the title – Bringing Home The Ashes – for it is, ostensibly, a detailed trawl through the cricketing year of 2015 and the Ashes Tests.

Although interesting to read an account of those games, along with the preceding Tests against New Zealand and the West Indies, plus the 50-over World Cup at the start of the year, the autobiographical element is perhaps the most fascinating part.

Root, who turns 25 on December 30, and who has played for Yorkshire since the age of 11, recounts early struggles to hit the ball off the square before his physique developed over time.

The problems he had in accelerating the scoring rate meant that he could not realistically bat anywhere else in the order other than up top because he only had one gear.

So he started out as opening batsman before gravitating to his current position further down the list.

Much is made of Root’s cherubic appearance, and in his very early days at Yorkshire he was disinclined to say boo to a goose.

But the competitive instinct has always been present, fostered by a duel with his brother Bill, 20 months his junior, and a promising batsman in his own right.

Sometimes, as Root tells his excellent ghost writer Richard Gibson – whose credits include collaborations with David “Bumble” Lloyd, Graeme Swann and James Anderson – this competitive instinct occasionally got out of hand.

Indeed, one afternoon at Scarborough, where Root’s father, Matthew, was playing in a league game, nine-year-old Joe bowled seven-year-old Bill in the nets in a far corner of the ground and celebrated his success with a spot of “chirping”.

Neither in a mood to be bowled nor “chirped”, Bill chased him round the boundary with his bat, the pair causing sufficient commotion for the match to be stopped by the umpires and Root’s father to leave his position at fine-leg to sprint 120 yards to break things up.

Comical stuff, indeed, and the brothers remain the fiercest of rivals and best of friends.

Root credits Kevin Sharp, the former Yorkshire batting coach, for playing perhaps the pivotal role in his development, while former Yorkshire and England all-rounder Craig White is cited as one of his heroes when growing up.

As befits a clean-cut figure, Root is very much a family man at heart and he pays touching tribute to his grandfather, Don, “for all the time you have given, and miles you have driven, to get me where I am”.

And where Root is right now –as England prepare to embark on a four-match Test series in South Africa – is right at the very top of the tree.

He was England’s leading run-scorer in the Ashes and also their man of the series, achievements which helped ease the memory of the 2013-14 whitewash Down Under when he briefly lost his Test place and which he honestly describes in the book as “my one career failure”.

Root is clearly an intensely driven individual yet he is also insatiably positive and likeable, attributes which do not always go hand in hand.

He writes enthusiastically of the japes that take place in the England dressing room – the sock-snipping, the endless practical jokes – and describes it as “a bit like a sixth-form common room”.

There is no doubt that, as vice-captain, Root symbolises the smiling face of Team England, which, not all that long ago, wore more of a frown.

It is just a shame – in light of the SPOTY brouhaha – that more people (and youngsters in particular) do not get the chance to watch this splendid role model plying his trade.

Joe Root: Bringing Home The Ashes is published by Hodder & Stoughton, priced £20.