Joe Root warns England newcomers to expect hostile atmosphere during Ashes

August 13 2017, 7.17pmUpdated: August 13 2017, 8.13pm
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The Ashes may be more than three months away but England captain Joe Root is already preparing his fresh-faced squad for a barrage of verbals Down Under.

England’s immediate focus is on West Indies and Thursday’s landmark day/night Test at Edgbaston, but rivals Australia are never far from their thoughts.

For the likes of Mark Stoneman, Tom Westley, Dawid Malan, Toby Roland-Jones and Mason Crane, the next few weeks represent a golden chance to seal a maiden Ashes trip; for Root, just four games into his reign, it is an opportunity to prepare those recent arrivals for the challenges awaiting behind enemy lines.

The Australian public can prove challenging hosts for English cricketers, as several generations of ‘Poms’ can attest, and Root admits his own experiences in 2013/14 – when England were whitewashed and he was dropped for the only time in his career – left a lasting impression.

“I think it’s important to warn them,” he said.

“You don’t want to go out there and it just hit you like a train. You want to make sure you’re fully aware of what’s coming your way.

“I was slightly surprised. I thought they might give us a bit of banter but it was a bit more than that.

“There were a few chants from the crowd that were quite personal at times, quite offensive. A lot of our side was similar to the one which went and won (in 2010/11). They all said it was an amazing tour, they had a great time. My experience was different, it was very hostile…quite aggressive at times on and off the field.

“The thing to remember, even if it doesn’t seem it at the time, is it’s generally in good spirit and they’re just trying to create an atmosphere for their side.

“When you get a full house and it’s rocking and the crowd are involved it makes a very entertaining spectacle to watch and also to play in.

“It’s great if you can go out there with everyone against you and put in a match-winning performance. That’s one of the greatest things in professional sport, to come over those difficult periods and prove your worth. It’s important as a side we look at it as an opportunity.”

Root is a different player and a different man to the one who was scorched by the heat of battle four years ago.

With the bat he has averaged 59.42 since being stood down for the Sydney Test, making 10 of his 12 career hundreds, and graduated to the top job in English cricket this summer with a calm sense of inevitability.

With all that in mind he is happy to take his share of slings and arrows this time around, if there are any to spare once the crowd are finishing with their old sparring partner Stuart Broad.

“We all like a pantomime villain,” said Root, who was showing his own taste for the theatrical by swatting paint-doused pink balls at a promotional event in Sheffield’s Abbeydale Picture House.

“Certain characters like Stuart thrive on that, so hopefully they pick a good villain who enjoys it and it works to our advantage.

“I think it’s part and parcel of being a senior player and more established in the side. You take that responsibility. You can’t choose who they pick on but it’s a challenge Test cricket throws up on occasion. If you’re going to survive in it you have to find a way to deal with it.”

Although Root is quickly assimilating to the demands of captaincy, he has also promised not to shelve completely the role of tour entertainer.

In previous years he has posted videos of himself playing ukulele covers of songs in his hotel room, but while the idea remains the same the luggage is about to get bigger.

“I’m trying to move on from the ukelele, it’s time to take the guitar,” he said.

“A bit of Oasis, a bit of Green Day. After a few beers I think ‘Half the World Away’ is the easiest to play. Maybe I’ll have to get Jerusalem nailed for the first Test.”

But before that comes Edgbaston, and England’s first floodlit Test against West Indies.

“Hopefully a lot of people will enjoy it and come down and watch and it can be a huge success,” said Root.

“It might attract a different audience and broaden people’s opinions of Test cricket with it having a slightly different edge.”

:: As an Ambassador for health and life insurer Vitality, Joe Root uses his passion for healthy living to inspire everyone to be active and make positive changes to their lifestyle www.vitality.co.uk

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