Root taking hold at Headingley as he follows in Vaughan’s steps

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WHEN a young player is compared to Geoffrey Boycott and Michael Vaughan it is a fair bet that he knows one end of a cricket bat from the other.

Joe Root, 21, has lately been showing they are no idle comparisons with some splendid batting performances for the Yorkshire first team.

Root is very much the man of the moment, having shone in all forms of the game for the county of late.

Whether coping with the varied demands of the County Championship or the hectic challenges of Twenty20, Root has proved himself skilful and versatile, a player who can aspire to the heights of his predecessors.

Everyone who follows Yorkshire cricket has known for some time that Root can play.

Last year, in his first full season, and a wretched one for the club as a whole, he was one of the few shining lights with 937 Championship runs at 36.03.

He played some fine innings for England Lions and has continued his good form into 2012.

This month alone, Root has registered a Championship-best 222 not out against Hampshire, a top-score of 65 in the Twenty20 quarter-final win over Worcestershire and been named in England’s provisional 30-man squad for the Twenty20 World Cup in Sri Lanka this autumn – not that he is allowing himself to get carried away.

“The England situation is out of my hands,” said Root. “I’ve not really thought about it at all, although it’s nice to know people think highly of me.

“It’s nice to get a bit of praise when things go well but, as a player, you can only focus on doing well in the next game.

“Everything else must take care of itself.”

Modest to a fault and softly-spoken, one is about as likely to hear Root talk himself up as one is likely to see him play an unattractive stroke.

The comparison with Vaughan would seem most apt; there is indeed similarity in the elegant way in which Root drives the ball, and he is clearly an England batsman in the making.

At the moment, however, he is properly focused on learning his trade.

It is a level-headed approach that has served him well.

“I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself,” added Root. “I’ve worked really hard during the winter and into this season, and it’s nice when that hard work starts to pay off.

“You do all your practice and everything and then when you go out there you know in your mind that you’ve done all you can.

“That’s all I try and do to be honest – just go out there and play with that freeness of mind.”

Root said his task had been made easier by the skill of his team-mates.

He believes that has had a particular effect on his batting this season.

“With the environment we’re playing in, the confidence the rest of the boys give you is just awesome,” he said.

“To get that vibe from everyone is brilliant because everyone in the team is performing at the moment – it’s not just one person.

“When that happens, there isn’t pressure on any one player and it makes things easier.

“We’ve got outstanding cricketers right through the side.”

Root also hailed the impact of the new coaching set-up.

“Dizzy (first team coach Jason Gillespie) is a very relaxed character and I think that helps,” he added. “And Paul Farbrace (second team coach) has been great for the squad and the youngsters coming through.

“When you get a new environment it does freshen things up a little bit perhaps.

“And with such a young squad now, everyone is really close and there’s a great team spirit.”

That team spirit has been most evident in Yorkshire’s performances in the field.

In Twenty20 cricket, in particular, there has been no more hungry or happier-looking combination.

It was written all over the celebrations which attended a remarkable piece of fielding by Root himself during the Worcestershire match.

When James Cameron lofted a ball from Rich Pyrah to the long-on boundary, Root somehow scooped it back at full stretch and into the grateful hands of David Miller, who followed up to complete the catch.

“We take a lot of pride from our performances in the field,” said Root.

“We practice very hard and sometimes you can pull off catches like that.

“We often practice fielding on the boundary, so there are times when you get the opportunity to claw the ball back and for one of your team-mates to follow up and take the catch.

“Luckily, it came off in the Worcestershire game.”

Like his colleagues, Root insists Championship promotion is the priority.

He is adamant Yorkshire have what it takes to bounce straight back up.

“We want to show everyone how strong a side we are in these last few weeks of the season,” he added. “We’ve been hampered by 
injuries and the weather this year and we want to take our Twenty20 form into the Championship stuff.

“I’m a very proud Yorkshireman and I want to be part of a successful side in all forms of the game.

“If we get good weather now, I’m confident we can finish our season in style.”

chris.waters@ypn.co.uk