JOE Root believes Yorkshire’s young guns can “set alight” the second division of the County Championship next season, after committing his future to the club until 2014.
The 20-year-old batsman has signed a two-year extension to his Yorkshire contract, which was due to expire at the end of next season, and said: “It’s fantastic to have signed a new deal at Headingley.
“I was over the moon to be offered a contract, and I’m just glad it’s all sorted.
“I’ve got at least three more years at Yorkshire, and I’m sure they will be successful ones.
“There was a bit of a delay in signing the deal, but I just wanted everything finalised and wanted to make sure that there were no other distractions.
“I never even thought about playing my cricket anywhere else.
“I am a Yorkshire lad, born and bred, and playing for the White Rose is a great honour.
“It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do, it is something I am tremendously proud of doing – and it is something that I’m not about to give up easily.”
Fellow youngsters Gary Ballance, Azeem Rafiq and Moin Ashraf have similarly signed extensions to their Yorkshire contracts, and Root believes the club’s academy products will have a “massive part to play” in the club’s future.
“It’s good to see young players being rewarded with new deals,” he said.
“And it’s always nice to see home-grown players come through the system and, more importantly, consistently contribute in the first team.
“It’s beneficial for the club, and it will be beneficial to the club for many years to come.”
Root’s impressive form during his first full season in the Yorkshire first team was one of the bright points in a disappointing season.
Having finishing third in Division One in 2010, expectations were high for Andrew Gale’s men to go on and improve on that with a sustained title bid.
But they won just three games in 2011 and slipped into the second tier.
“It was nice to do well last season on a personal note, of course,” said Root, who scored 937 Championship runs at an average of 36.03. His right-arm off-break was also used sporadically, and yielded seven wickets for 319 runs at an average of 45.57.
“But at the end of the season you are always assessed as a side, and we were bitterly disappointed to be relegated. At the end of the day, we just weren’t good enough over the course of the season.
“We had a couple of good results and good performances, but we didn’t close out games well enough.
“That’s something we’ll have to work on next season if we want to bounce straight back.
“But with the squad we have we’ve got a great chance of achieving just that, and I guarantee all the lads are very hungry to do just that.
“We can’t afford to take it lightly, though. There are a lot of good sides in that second division, and each of us will have to perform to the best of our ability to get back up there.
“It’s now up to us to all come together, set Division Two alight and come back stronger next season.”
The fall-out from Yorkshire’s relegation saw coaches Craig White, Steve Oldham, John Blain and Kevin Sharp leave Headingley.
A restructuring of the club’s coaching staff now sees Jason Gillespie, Paul Farbrace and Ian Dews working under director of cricket Martyn Moxon.
A final new appointment, development manager Richard Damms, will report directly to Dews.
Root’s pre-season preparations, meanwhile, will see him travel to India in eight days for a three-week England Performance Programme training camp in Pune and Mumbai.
He will be joined by Test captain Andrew Strauss, wicketkeeper Matt Prior, batsman Eoin Morgan and Yorkshire team-mate Jonny Bairstow, who recently made his debut in the England one-day side.
“Going to India will be a great opportunity for me to put a case forward, and show England exactly what I can do,” said Root.
“But I’m not looking too far ahead.
“All I can do is try my best, and give myself the greatest possible chance of breaking into the England set up.”
After scoring 95 against champions Nottinghamshire early in the season, Root was promoted to open the Yorkshire innings and eventually registered his maiden first-class century, against Sussex at Scarborough, in August.
In his 12th championship match for the White Rose county, Root reached the century mark from 188 deliveries and eventually fell for a fluent 160 to a controversial catch by Amjad Khan.
Yorkshire’s storied seaside outground had already provided runs for the youngster that month, after an impressive 66 for the England Lions against Sri Lanka ‘A’.
“Personally for me, the season brought a few highlights,” he admitted, “like making my England Lions debut, and receiving the England Performance Programme call to go to India.
“But to get my first hundred against Sussex was amazing.
“To score a hundred for Yorkshire is something I had dreamed about doing for many years, and to do it at a fantastic ground like Scarborough made it even sweeter.
“It’s a moment that I think I will remember for a very, very long time.”
Captain Gale has also signed a new contract with the White Rose county.