Joe Root looked ahead to the biggest test of his fledgling captaincy and his career on Tuesday and insisted he relished England’s status here as big Ashes underdogs.
History tells you Australia are rarely beaten on home soil, not least by England, but even though Root’s first tour at the helm has got off to a far from convincing start he is adamant his side have enough bite to pull off an upset.
‘It’s almost against all odds, isn’t it?’ said Root ahead of Wednesday’s final warm-up against a Cricket Australia XI. ‘We’re in their backyard. Everyone in the ground will think they’re playing for Australia and they’ll do everything to help them.
England captain Joe Root is not fussed about being targeted by Australia in the Ashes series
‘We’ve got the chance to upset that, to go and do something special. We’re playing for our country in an Ashes series and we want to be part of that history. That’s the way I’m approaching it and I hope it will stand me in good stead.’
Root talked impressively here in north Queensland and was even happy about Australia’s insistence that they are, as usual, targeting the captain, one TV crew likening their approach towards him as ‘cutting off the head of the snake’.
‘I’ve heard a lot of chat about me but we’ll be targeting every one of them so bring it on,’ said Root. ‘I don’t really know what targeting the captain is. You go into every series as a batter expecting to be targeted.
‘People are going to look at your technique, look at ways you’ve got out and try to work out what’s the best way to combat you scoring runs. I don’t see how this will be different from any other series. It just might be a bit different mentally. I think it’s something they use as a tool to try to get the crowd and the public behind them. They try to get them on my back verbally.
‘I don’t know if they’re going to try harder towards me but if they’re wasting energy doing that then I hope that works well for the rest of the guys!’
It was the noise around Ashes series, particularly in Australia, that Root admits got to him as a young player when he was part of the last 5-0 thrashing.
He urged them to bring it on and is confident of victory Down Under in his first tour at the helm
‘I wasn’t ready,’ said Root, who ended up being dropped for the last Test of that 2013-14 series in Sydney. ‘Everything seemed to happen quite quickly. I think one thing for me this time will be making sure the game is played at my pace, trying to be nice and calm and collected out in the middle. And feel really ready for that aspect of Test cricket which you do experience here in Australia.
‘I think we are a bit wiser this time. We have to be absolutely ready for anything they throw at us. We expect it to be hostile, we expect it to be a very loud and rowdy atmosphere at the Gabba. Hopefully we are in a good place and ready for that because I think we’ve got our heads round what to expect.’
The captain is delighted with how his younger players now are adapting to life on the biggest tour of all and there is a sense around England that a tight-knit group have been brought even closer together by the Ben Stokes affair.
Root also rather honestly admitted he was not ready for the 2013-14 series in Sydney
ENGLAND XI vs CA
Cook, Stoneman, Vince, Root (capt), Malan, Bairstow (wkt), Moeen, Woakes, Overton, Broad, Crane
England face a Cricket Australia XI at Townsville on Wednesday
‘They’ve not looked intimidated or shy or threatened in any way,’ said Root of his inexperienced charges. ‘They’ve just thrown themselves into it all and that’s the approach I think you need going into any big series.’
Clearly England have decided not to shut themselves away in Australia as a reaction to what happened with Stokes and Alex Hales even though security advisor Reg Dickason is a constant companion to them. They even took time out on Monday to have a team paintballing session in Townsville.
‘It was good fun,’ said Root despite the presence of a bruise on his arm caused by him being targeted again, this time by his own team. ‘There was a bit of friendly fire which didn’t go down too well! The beauty of this group is that you don’t have to manufacture togetherness. We’re pretty tight as a team so when someone suggested going paintballing we were all in it together. It’s just important we look after each other but I’m sure we will do that.’
He says this time he is calm, collected and ready to play the game at his pace out on the field
England go into Wednesday’s game with their first Test top seven and with what will probably be their attack in Brisbane next week with the exception of Jimmy Anderson, who missed Tuesday’s practice with a minor virus.
In his absence Mason Crane was given another game in a clear indication that England expect him to play at some point in this series.
Jake Ball hopes to be running soon and there is still a chance he will edge out Craig Overton at the Gabba as he was so impressive before an ankle ligament injury brought his tour to a temporary halt in Adelaide.