LEEDS: Joe Root hopes becoming a Test captain will take his batting to the "next level", just as it's done for India's Virat Kohli and Australia's Steve Smith. Root was confirmed as England's new Test skipper, following Alastair Cook's resignation, despite the likes of former Test spinner Graeme Swann saying it could adversely affect his batting. The 26-year-old Yorkshireman already boasts an impressive batting average of nearly 53 in his 53 Tests to date.
Yet Kohli averages over 67 as captain of the India side now top of the world Test rankings compared to a shade above 41 when a player in the ranks. The corresponding figures for Smith are equally stark, at 71 and 53 respectively. "That excites me," said Root at his Headingley home ground on Wednesday. "It's a great motivator to make sure I do everything I can to get my batting in the best place possible and set the example for the rest of the guys in the team."
Root added: "You look at other guys who've taken similar roles like Virat and Steve Smith and they've gone on to bigger and better things and taken their game to the next level. I don't see why I can't look at it in the same light. "It's a great opportunity to take that added responsibility and really motivate me to get better. Every kid dreams of being England captain one day... I'm just really looking forward to getting my teeth into it and putting my mark on things."
- 'Biggest honour' -
Root insisted he had no hesitation in accepting the captaincy when it was offered to him by England and Wales Cricket Board director Andrew Strauss. "I think it's the biggest honour in the game, simple as that," he said. Meanwhile Strauss, Cook's predecessor as England captain, forecast an initial upsurge in the form of Root, a regular in all three international formats.
"When you get to the end of a captaincy career, you look at Alastair Cook and talk about him feeling a bit drained," said Strauss. "The opposite is also true. Early on in your captaincy career, it's incredibly energising. You walk a bit taller, you are passionate about taking the team forward, and you want to contribute to winning games of cricket.
"We've seen with a lot of captains that it's had a really positive effect on their game generally. There's no reason why that wouldn't happen to Joe for the next 18 months. And it's 18 very important months for both him and the England team."
Root has plenty of time to ease himself into his new role as England's next Test is not until they face South Africa at Lord's in July, with their focus for the time being on limited overs cricket, including June's Champions Trophy on home soil. For a team that prides itself on its Test results, 2016 was a tough year for England. They lost eight Tests in all, culminating in a 4-0 series loss in India -- Cook's final campaign as captain.
After this year's home series against South Africa and the West Indies, England's packed schedule continues with the defence of the Ashes in Australia in November. But an undaunted Root said of his promotion to captain: "It's a good opportunity to give something back to the game that has given me so much.
"I'm very lucky to have inherited an exciting team with a great blend of experience, raw talent and a core group of players who have played 20-30 games and are ready to take some more responsibility." He added: "I'd like to be a captain that wins, tough to play against, and I like to hope we'll play cricket that is enjoyable to watch. "It should be entertaining Test cricket and that's something I want to get across to the team and the people watching."