England cricket legend Graham Gooch today praised Sheffield’s Joe Root, whose 180 epic second innings helped guide England to a convincing Ashes victory over Australia at Lord’s, writes Graham Walker.
Root, the man of the match put to bed any suggestions he may not be ready to open in international cricket with his almost double century and then removed Australia’s two top-scorers in the fourth innings.
Gooch, a former England and Essex captain, the leading Test run scorer for England - with 8,900 runs - said he knew on first glance that Yorkshire batsman Joe Root had a bright future ahead of him.
He was speaking after England’s 347-run victory in the second Ashes Test.
Root made his Test debut in the middle order only seven months ago after appearing to be a back-up opener behind Nick Compton and captain Alastair Cook in India.
He has made giant strides since, and Gooch is one of many impressed by the young Yorkshireman’s technique and attitude.
England batting coach Gooch said: “For every country in the world, sometimes players get thrown up who are not only skilful, have good disciplines and good habits but are very mature characters for young men.
“I think from the first time we all experienced Joe in India, a few months back, it was quite evident that this lad was very mature mentally, had a good work ethic and was very keen to learn.
“One of the most important ingredients for a sportsman is he was prepared to drive his own career forward.
“He’s not waiting for advice; he’s seeking it. He’s seeking information, looking for new ideas.
“It was not a surprising decision when he forced his way into the side on merit at Nagpur in that Test, and he’s gone on and on.”
Gooch is wary of building up unfair expectations, but is unsurprisingly optimistic of much more to come from Root, aged 22.
“One innings doesn’t make you a regular for a long period of time.
“He’s shown good promise. He still needs to be tested in different conditions, if he goes down to Australia this winter.
“He’s not a complete player, like nobody’s a complete player.
“He’s a young player with great promise and great skill.
“Anyone who sees him play would think he’s going to have a fruitful career - but you can’t be sure.”
Root then is a certainty to head next week for Manchester, a venue where Gooch had mixed fortunes as a Test batsman - including in the 1993 Ashes when he became one of the very few to be out handled ball.
That was in a match England lost, despite their captain’s second-innings hundred, on the way to series defeat.
There is a very different balance of power this summer for a home team intent on making their own history.
“I did manage to win the Ashes three times actually (but) ... I did suffer quite a lot,” said Gooch.
“I don’t know how (much) some of (these players) would know the historical significance ... some probably wouldn’t.
“Mainly their interest is winning each match they come up against.”
Alastair Cook’s team are on the verge of winning the urn for a third successive time - something last achieved by England more than 30 years ago - after their trouncing of Australia at Lord’s.
That resounding success was completed in the absence of the injured Pietersen, off the field during the tourists’ second innings after a scan revealed he had strained his left calf.
He is considered doubtful already for the third Investec Test in Manchester.
Unfortunate history is therefore threatening to repeat itself for Pietersen, who also missed the final three matches of England’s last surge to home Ashes series victory with an Achilles injury in 2009.
Gooch is not prepared, and unqualified he insists too, to publicly discuss the potential replacements for Pietersen - who had a lean time in England’s middle order at Lord’s, where he made only seven runs in his two innings.
“I know he’s got a problem with his calf, a strain,” said Gooch.
“Whether he will be fit for Old Trafford ... he’d be in doubt.
“I’m sure there will be some cover supplied.”
The potential replacement personnel remains open to conjecture, with several plausible candidates but none presenting an obviously compelling case.
Among the feasible contenders, Nick Compton is the one who most recently inhabited an England batting position - but that was as a specialist opener before he was dropped in favour of Root.
Speaking specifically about Compton, Gooch said: “I’m not a selector, so I couldn’t give you an indication to whether he would be the next cab off the rank or not.”
Unlike others, the Somerset opener has not been seen around the England team on practice days.
A clutch of others have, and Gooch implicitly acknowledges the significance.
“We’re looking not just at the players we’ve got but also the ones coming through.
“We introduce them to the other players, and try to prepare them a little bit for maybe if an opportunity comes.”