Joe Root shares many of the attributes that made Michael Vaughan England’s most successful captain, according to someone who saw both men learn their trade at Sheffield Collegiate Cricket Club.
Root’s coronation as Test skipper yesterday sees him follow the same path as Vaughan from the pitch at Abbeydale to the most prestigious position in the English game, a remarkable honour for Collegiate.
Vaughan went on to win a record 26 matches, including the 2005 Ashes and Nick Gaywood, who opened the batting with a teenage Root, believes he brings the same kind of qualities.
“They’re both very similar in lots of ways - very strong mentally, not cluttered, incredibly focused. Michael was a very innovative captain and I think Joe will be the same,” Gaywood said.
“God knows how they both came through our club, it’s quite extraordinary really.
“Joe’s dad Matt plays for us and we first noticed Joe and his brother Bill playing with a bat and a wind ball around the boundary edge.
“It was always entertaining because it was like a mini version of what we were doing on the pitch - proper shots, running between the wickets, it was obvious they could play. He has incredible enthusiasm for the game.
“He was playing senior cricket by the time he was 12. He wasn’t big and he wasn’t strong but he had an instinctive understanding of the cricket, he understood it.”
Like Alastair Cook before him, Root takes the England captaincy despite limited leadership experience, with just a couple of games under his belt for Yorkshire.
But Gaywood says he has thought and acted like a captain for a long time.
“We lost him for a year to Yorkshire Academy and when he came back, at about 18, our captain would often let him take the reins during matches and encouraged him to make decisions,” he said.
“He was always thinking and we encourage our kids to do that. We want them to think about field settings, about scenarios, what shots should I be playing? Joe was always prepared to do that.
“I remember once when he’d got runs for Yorkshire Second XI and he came back to the club. You’d expect him to be in the bar having a drink or two but he was straight to the nets, helping the lads, doing some range hitting.”
Gaywood, now 53, also has some fond personal memories of his time with Root - from runs in the middle to cheeky notes off it.
He added: “When I was 46 I had my best season...Joe and I had six hundred partnerships. I still have a note at home that he wrote taking the mickey out of me. It says ‘to my opening partner, the only man I know who can turn threes into ones’.
“He’s a witty boy. I really hope he keeps that sense of mischievousness and fun.”
Root described himself as “privileged, humbled and very excited” after being confirmed as England’s new Test captain.
The 26-year-old has five months to prepare for his first Test in charge - against South Africa at Lord’s on July 6 - and said: “It is a huge honour to be given the England Test captaincy. I feel privileged, humbled and very excited.
‘’We have a very good group of players, and I’m looking forward to leading them out in the summer, building on Alastair’s achievements and making the most of our talents in the years ahead.”