England’s player of the year Joe Root claims he has former coach Peter Moores to thank for the drastic improvement in his individual performance.
Root, dropped in Sydney at the end of England’s Ashes whitewash defeat under Andy Flower’s regime last year, has gone on to average almost 95 in Tests during Moores’ second tenure.
Root has now been recognised as England’s outstanding player in the past 12 months across all formats and the new vice-captain is in no doubt that Moores, who was sacked last week, was the one man who has helped him most.
“I think (my batting) has improved drastically,” Root said.
“A lot of credit for that has to go to Peter Moores. Over the past year, he has definitely got the best out of me - along with the rest of the coaching department.”
Root began with an unbeaten maiden double-century against Sri Lanka at Lord’s last summer. As he prepares to try to continue his brilliant form in the corresponding Test a year on, against New Zealand at HQ, the 24-year-old Yorkshireman can reflect on three further big unbeaten hundreds and an annual aggregate of 1,135.
He has been no slouch either in the shorter formats, despite England’s moderate results.
Root needs no prompting to single out the help of Moores, who lost his job nine days ago as new England and Wales Cricket Board director Andrew Strauss made immediate changes following an embarrassingly early exit from last winter’s World Cup and a disappointing drawn Test series in the West Indies.
Root struggled for form, as did all England’s batsmen, in a miserable 2013-14 Ashes campaign.
He can look forward to putting that right when Australia follow the Kiwis to England this summer - and is confident he is in much better shape.
“I think, when I came back from Australia, I realised a lot of the time out there I was trying to work on things I wasn’t too good at - and putting all my energy into that, rather than spending more time strengthening the stuff I am good at,” he said.
“Obviously I could still try to tweak things I can improve on, but I just needed to make sure I did more of what I could do well so I didn’t lose those.
“Peter saw that - and I simplified things as well.
“I think I was so desperate to do well that I ended up hindering myself.
“It was a change of approach I made there, and I want to keep on improving and developing.”
England will be coached on a caretaker basis by Moores’ assistant Paul Farbrace in back-to-back Tests against New Zealand, starting on Thursday, but the search for a new number one is already reportedly under way.
Root may well soon team up again with his Yorkshire coach Jason Gillespie, who is a front-runner, but he is still sad to lose Moores as such a trusted and respected ally.
“He was good to work with, a brilliant coach,” Root added.
“He knew how to get the best out of me personally, and I really hope he goes on to do other great jobs within the game.”
While Moores is again part of England’s past, Root is very much the future - as demonstrated by Strauss’ decision to make him Alastair Cook’s vice-captain instead of Ian Bell.
He said: “I was delighted, so I accepted straight away - and I am looking forward to the first few games working with Cooky.
“I don’t think it will change much - just a bit more responsibility on my part - and if Cooky wants to come up to me for ideas, I will make sure I have something to help him out.”
It will be “devastating”, Root says, if for any reason he has to replace Cook in the short term.
When his chance comes, though, he hopes he will be a pro-active leader - and certainly would hope to improve on his performance deputising for Yorkshire skipper Andrew Gale in a match they lost to Middlesex at Lord’s which earned him an unfortunate new nickname.
“It was a bizarre game really,” said Root.
“The pitch improved drastically over the course of the game, and Chris Rogers played one of the best innings of the year.
“I did get the nickname ‘Craptain’ at the end of the year from the Yorkshire dressing room - a bit of banter which I thought was quite funny - but that game isn’t something that’s going to faze me.
“Of course, I was hugely disappointed ... but it was a good learning experience, and I hope it won’t happen too many times again if I am captain.”