As Sheffield’s Joe Root stood in front of a packed Long Room at Lord’s, holding the England player of the year trophy for 2014/15, his thoughts turned to an absent friend.
Peter Moores was sacked as England coach for the second time nine days before Monday evening’s bash at the home of cricket.
But 24-year-old Root showed his class by thanking one of his former mentors, after a year which brought him four big hundreds, a sackful of runs - and the England Test vice-captaincy.
“I think (my batting) has improved drastically,” the Yorkshire batsman, who averaged 95 during Moores’ second tenure in charge of England, said.
“A lot of credit for that has to go to Peter. Over the past year, he has definitely got the best out of me - along with the rest of the coaching department.
“I think, when I came back from Australia [after a 5-0 Ashes defeat which saw him dropped for the final Test in Sydney] 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.
“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.”
The Sheffield Collegiate product, widely viewed as the next England captain, was handed the vice-captaincy by new director of cricket Andrew Strauss last week; with the new England supremo keen to ensure his leadership skills are sharpened up ahead of bigger challenges ahead.
“I was delighted, so I accepted straight away - and I am looking forward to the first few games working with Cooky,” Root said.
“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.”
His promotion, of course, means he could end up captaining England in the Ashes against Australia this summer, should Cook succumb to injury.
Cooky has hit some very good form lately and he would be a massive loss to the dressing room so I definitely don’t want that to happen. It is something I will think about if it ever does but it’s something I really would not like. If that opportunity unfortunately came about I would make sure I was ready to go and make sure I had everything in place to make a good start.Joe Root
“That would be devastating to be honest,” Root said.
“He has hit some very good form lately and he would be a massive loss to the dressing room so I definitely don’t want that to happen. It is something I will think about if it ever does.
“It’s something I really would not like. If that opportunity unfortunately came about I would make sure I was ready to go and make sure I had everything in place to make a good start.”
When pushed, he admitted he would be an “aggressive, yet relaxed captain” who thinks on his feet, à la Michael Vaughan - his mentor at Collegiate and at Yorkshire.
He admits that, after taking charge of the Tykes in a record-breaking defeat at Middlesex last year when Chris Rodgers hit 241 not out, he was light-heartedly christened ‘craptain’ by his Yorkshire team-mates.
Root insists he enjoyed the ribbing; but it won’t be too much longer before he has the chance to make them eat their words, on the biggest stage of all.