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In the 2013/14 Ashes in Australia, Joe Root was 22 and was an up and coming batsman for England at the time.
The inexperienced youngster found himself in hostile territory and up against a number of lethally quick bowlers, including Mitchell Johnson, Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle.
Root only had one memorable innings, which was an impressive 87 in the second innings of the second Test in Adelaide.
Apart from that, he failed to have an impact with the bat and was subsequently dropped after the fourth Test in Melbourne. To make matters worse, Australia went on to whitewash England 5-0.
But, fast forward to today and Root has matured immensely, so much so that he was handed the coveted role of Test captain in February.
With even more pressure on his shoulders this time around, the 26-year-old is determined to ensure he turns his fortunes around when England head Down Under in November.
“That first Test match at Brisbane, when I walked out to bat, I think it did it hit me quite hard,” Root said. “It was like I walked into a conservatory door: I was not aware at all that it was there.
“For large periods of that trip, I was spending my time and energy working on things that other people said I needed to work on; getting forward; a bigger stride; getting into the ball. But in reality, they were bowling 95mph bouncers, so it was pointless.
“But I will be slightly more aware this time. I won’t be caught cold. I know what to expect from what can be quite a hostile environment.”
While it was a forgettable tour for England, Root admitted that he learned a lot from it, and hopes that the younger players who are selected for the upcoming Ashes series will embrace the challenge of playing in Australia rather than be daunted by entering the lair of the Baggy Greens.
“I think it’s very important that the guys that haven’t been there get a good idea of what it can be like,” he said. “They shouldn’t be afraid of it. They should try to embrace it and enjoy it. It’s not always easy to enjoy it, but that tour is a great opportunity for this team.
“I think I’ve done all my learning from that tour already. I came back from it and thought: just strengthen all the things that have served you very well for long periods of time and slowly but surely work on the rest of it. From that I gained a lot of confidence. It was a really good way, from being in quite a difficult spot, of feeling good again.”
As captain, one would expect that the team would be at the top of the list of priorities, but Root revealed that most of the advice he has received so far revolves around him looking after his own game as he will need to be among the runs in order for England to boost their chances of retaining the Ashes.
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“I’ve had a lot of people provide quite similar advice,” he said. “But the one thing that’s really stuck out is ‘just make sure you look after your own game and concentrate on scoring as many runs as possible.’
“That might come across as quite selfish. But I think it’s going to be very important for me, mentally as well, to put in the work and set the right example when the opportunities arise.”
Root knows that it is possible to thrive with the bat despite having a leadership role as India captain Virat Kohli, Australia skipper Steve Smith and New Zealand leader Williamson have all proved it.
“They are great examples of taking that responsibility and making it a real asset to their games,” Root said. “It’s a good opportunity for me to do exactly the same. Over the last couple of years my consistency has been fantastic. But between 50 and 100 there have been far too many occasions when I have got out.
“On a few occasions I have been got out, but the majority of the time it has been a lapse of concentration and that’s not good enough. I’m going to have to make sure that moving forward I set a really good example by going on and trying to make sure I make the most of those good starts and be a little bit more ruthless.
“In the past, the more responsibility I’ve been given, I’ve generally responded well to it. Hopefully that will be the same.”
Root also made it clear that England will be as competitive as possible throughout the forthcoming Ashes as they want to avoid a repeat of the 2013/14 series.
“There have occasions in the past when we probably have folded a little too easily,” he said. “I don’t think there was too much bad blood in our series against India,” he said. “There were a few of our guys who were quite passionate and vocal and Virat and a few of his guys were the same. If you understand and respect that and you don’t take it too far and make it personal then I don’t know what the issue is.
“There’s nothing wrong with going and having a beer after the game. It is quite nice actually, if someone has really laid into you for five weeks and then you go up to them with a beer and make them feel really uncomfortable. It’s quite good when you can ask them some difficult questions like ‘how’s the missus? How’s the kids?’ And see how they respond to it. It is good that we are open to that as a side and hopefully other teams are as well.”