LONDON (Reuters) - Joe Root was earmarked as a future England captain from the day he made his test debut in 2012 and after scoring a bucket-load of runs he duly landed the job just over four years later.
His boyish looks and cheeky-chappy persona belie a steely determination which, combined with a classical technique, have lifted him to third in the world test batting rankings, behind only Australia’s Steve Smith and India’s Virat Kohli.
Those two are already captains of their countries and the 26-year-old Root, two years Kohli’s junior and one year younger than Smith, will face many battles against them for individual and team bragging rights.
Root replaced Alastair Cook who quit last week after leading England in a record 59 tests over four and a half years during which he enjoyed some success, with two Ashes victories and a rare triumph in India, but struggled to impose a definitive style of leadership on his side.
Essentially attritional in nature, Cook lacked flair and an ability to adapt to changing situations, qualities that Root has already shown in his brief spells in charge.
He would do well to model himself on fellow Yorkshireman Michael Vaughan whose aggressive and innovative captaincy led England to victory in the 2005 Ashes series, the first time they had beaten arch-rivals Australia for 18 years.
Root, a keen student of the game, will have firebrand all-rounder Ben Stokes as his vice-captain and the pair must find a way to get the best out of an accomplished group of players who under-performed badly in 2016, losing eight tests.
They will have to nurture talented youngsters like opener Haseeb Hameed and harness the experience of leading fast bowlers James Anderson and Stuart Broad.
Root has scored 4,594 runs in 53 tests at an average of 52.80 and there have been fears that the captaincy could affect his prolific batsmanship.
Those who know him well, however, have no such concerns.
“He’ll take it in his stride. He’s the kind of character to do that,” said Yorkshire director of cricket Martin Moxon.
“He’ll be the type of character that will cope with the pressure. It’ll not affect his batting. Knowing Joe it’ll probably enhance his batting.”
Anderson, England’s leading test wicket taker, believes Root is the right man for the job.
“He is fairly quiet but he has got that fire in his belly,” he said.
“Root gets into situations, one-on-ones, with people. He speaks a lot of sense when he does speak and he’s a really impressive young man.”
Root will start his reign with home series against South Africa and West Indies before the task of trying to retain the Ashes in Australia, the ultimate challenge for the man England hope will be their baby-faced assassin.
Editing by Robin Pomeroy