A leading commentator is tipping Sheffield-born batsman Joe Root to play a major role in England retaining the Ashes this summer.
Henry Blofeld, one of international cricket’s best loved broadcasters, expects Root to sparkle when England begin their five-match Test series with Australia in Trent Bridge, Nottingham, on July 10.
Tomorrow at Chelmsford, the prodigiously talented 22-year-old will open for his country for the first time in a four-day warm-up match with Essex. England’s selectors decided this week to leave out Nick Compton, leading to Root moving up the order. Should the former Sheffield Collegiate youngster impress against Essex, Root will partner captain Alastair Cook in the Ashes. Indeed, Root scored his maiden Test century at Headingley, his home ground, in the recent victory over New Zealand.
Blofeld, who visited Sheffield as part of his “Memories Of A Test Match Special” tour, told The Star: “I think Joe is going to be a truly great player. To come into the side and make the impact he has done is remarkable.
“Joe will break a few records in his career. He’s got class. He’s got everything. If he doesn’t break records, something has gone badly wrong. He is that good.
“I think people were worried about springing him on Test cricket too young but my own feeling is that if you are that good it doesn’t matter how young you are. “You are going to get thrown in at the deep end and you’ve got to swim as he has emphatically this summer. I expect Joe to be a very important contributor to England’s cause against Australia which I personally think will be a winning cause not only in England but also in Australia next winter.
“They will be two terrific series with Australia which I think England will probably win. We will have our work cut out but I think we are the better side.”
Peter Baxter, the producer of TMS from 1973-2007, has been impressed by the maturity Root has shown since bursting on to the international scene.
“Quite apart from his ability with the bat, Joe’s temperament looks to be fantastic,” said Baxter. “He has got great ability with the bat.”
However, Blofeld, a regular member of the BBC’s Test Match Special team, was in favour of England opening with Compton at the start of the Ashes series despite his dip in form with the bat. In his four outings in the series with New Zealand, the Somerset batsman compiled just 39 runs.
He said: “I wouldn’t want to put Joe up to open yet. He’s just started and he is finding his feet a little bit lower down the order.
“Compton scored a couple of hundreds in New Zealand and I think he should be given the first chance.
“It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if this time next year Joe is Cook’s regular partner but at the moment I would like to keep him where he is.”
Some pundits reckon Root possess the capabilities to captain England in the future. Blofeld thinks there is a possibility this could happen but has stressed: “Let’s really let Joe establish himself in the side. It probably is something that will come his way but it is much too early to start talking about captaincy - unless you are from Sheffield!”