Graham Gooch sees a little bit of Alastair Cook’s gold-dust batsmanship already in England’s brightest young thing Joe Root.
It was former England captain and current batting coach Gooch, as Cook’s mentor at Essex, who famously nurtured the talent which has taken his protege to the top tier of international cricket.
Cook has gone on to surpass even Gooch himself, among others, as England’s most prolific Test centurion of all time.
After Root’s man-of-the-match 180 as England trounced Australia by 347 at Lord’s, to go 2-0 up with three to play in this summer’s Investec Ashes series, Gooch was happy to substantiate comparisons between the 22-year-old Yorkshireman and his Test captain.
“They are both mature for young men, and Alastair Cook had a similar mentality when he was Joe’s age,” said Gooch, struck by Root’s potential from the moment he first had a good look at him on tour in India last winter.
“He was mature in the mind – he knew exactly how he could score runs – and I think anyone who saw Joe saw that too.
“When he was suddenly promoted to the side, he walked straight in, and you’d have thought he’d been playing this sort of game the whole time.”
Root added Twenty20 and one-day international debuts to his maiden Test, in Nagpur, in a matter of weeks – and has rarely looked back since, most recently making a success of his move up the order to open alongside Cook.
It is as much the 22-year-old’s attitude of mind as his batting ability which impresses Gooch.
“Every player wants to improve themselves, but generally in a coach-player relationship the player’s the master,” he added.
“You offer observations as a coach and ideas and advice, but if it’s a two-way thing … the player is keen to receive information and is actually seeking knowledge … you’re more likely to make some progress.
“Joe, from the first time we saw him in India, was an impressive young character. I’m not surprised at all that he’s moving forward with his skill levels, the way he works at his game and all the disciplines that are in place.”
Root’s breakthrough century at Lord’s – his second for England in Tests but his first at the top of the order – has inevitably raised expectations again.
“Every individual handles it differently,” said Gooch.
“It’s early days. But I have nothing to suggest to me that Joe won’t continue to be a successful player at international cricket.
“A lot of things can come along and test you, so we’ll wait and see. The jury’s out on that, but at moment he’s going in the right direction.”
Ironically, it was not one of Root’s many successful shots but instead the moment he got out on Sunday – attempting an audacious ramp off Ryan Harris – which reminded Gooch all over again of his best qualities.
“He has a confidence about him. Even in this match, there was a little snapshot,” said Gooch.
“Australia quite rightly knew we’d like him to get a double-hundred, and that would suit our 600 target as well – so they put everyone back on the boundary.
“So what does the lad do? He goes for the one shot where they haven’t got a fielder. That tells you a lot about Joe.
“It’s the one place they haven’t got a fielder – ‘I might have a chance of hitting a four’ – so he went for it.
“He’s not selfish. He’s not going to be out there for 18 overs to get his 200; he knows he has to get the runs reasonably – it just gives you a little insight into his thought process.”
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