Joe Root relishing chance to be a spearhead for England

Joe Root

Joe Root

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Joe Root was a spectator on his maiden tour as captain Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen blunted the threat of Ravi Ashwin four years ago - and now he knows it is his responsibility to repeat the feat.

Root did not make his debut until the final Test in Nagpur in December 2012, with England already 2-1 up en route to an historic series success after back-to-back wins in Mumbai and Kolkata.

The Sheffield ace began as he intended to go on, with a battling 73 and an unbeaten 20 as England closed out a precious stalemate.

Since then, Root has risen to the top of the ICC rankings for batsmen. He is currently back down at fourth, still averaging more than 53, yet the challenge he faces over the next six weeks is undoubtedly among his most taxing.

Ashwin failed to live up to his billing in 2012-13. The off-spinner finished with 14 wickets at 52.64 to leave himself seventh in India’s averages after Cook had reeled off three successive hundreds and Pietersen joined in with one of his finest innings in Mumbai.

The latter is long gone as far as England are concerned. Although Cook remains at the helm, the onus to provide backbone against Ashwin is shared by his deputy Root.

Ashwin showed no mercy to New Zealand as India began their season with a 3-0 whitewash victory, bagging 27 wickets and scorching to the top of the ICC team rankings.

England, meanwhile, arrive on the back of a hapless collapse to lose a Test to Bangladesh for the first time.

Root needs no reminding therefore that England must be on their mettle from the outset with pitches which are again expected to favour spin.

He recalls too, though, the collective success of their last trip to India.

“We did play (Ashwin) very well,” he said. “We had a bit more experience in our batting order, and guys like Cooky played extremely well throughout that whole series.”

Root, who acknowledges Ashwin has progressed since then but conversely may feel the weight of expectation too, will happily consult his captain – and absent friends - for tips.

“(We should) ask them what really worked well for them,” said the 25-year-old. “We have to understand he’s going to be a big threat for them, but not fear him, and make sure we go out and have clear gameplans of how we’re going to score and put pressure back on him.

“We have to be very respectful of the fact that he is one of the best bowlers in the world.

“But when that’s the case, so comes that added pressure of delivering it. If you do score runs against him in these conditions, that will be a very good effort.”

Root too has more experience these days.

“I’ve done a lot of growing up since (2012),” he added. “That was a fantastic tour - a really enjoyable one - and it would be great to emulate something like that now on this one.

“It’s a great opportunity to try and prove a lot of people wrong that we can be successful here in India.”

He knows a balance between self-belief and realism will serve England best, especially after their descent to 164 all out and defeat by 108 runs to the Tigers last weekend.

“You’d be foolish to look too far into it on that surface, but if we completely wrote it off it would be a bit naive,” he said.

“The lads are very keen to make sure we learn the lessons of that mad hour-and-a-half, but at the same time understand it’s a completely new challenge, new surfaces - and we played some really good cricket over there as well as that (collapse).”

He does not agree that England could begin their India tour scarred by the Dhaka debacle, but accepts they have a point to prove.

“I wouldn’t say scarred ... over the course of the last few Test matches you’ve seen out in India there have been some good scores ... so there’s no excuse.

“If the surfaces do allow, we should try and put India under pressure with big scores.”

Root will begin with intent, not baggage.

“The key is making sure we don’t have too many preconceived ideas of what surfaces we’re going to be playing, and reacting to what’s in front of us, and reacting very well and quickly, but not getting caught cold again,” he said.

“It’s going to be a very tough tour, and we’re going to have to play really well. But we’re a side that’s got a lot of exciting players, and a lot of individual brilliance within, and there’s no reason we should fear any of their bowlers.

“We should absolutely respect them. We should be excited at the challenge of being successful against them - and the rewards you get from doing that.”

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