Joe Root still reluctant to open up about night he faced David Warner's fists
Sunday 30 June 2013
As Joe Root learnt, almost to the cost of his angelic face, as an England opener in the Ashes the old enemy will throw every-thing at you. From bouncers and beamers to bunches of fives in Birmingham, to survive the hostility in the opening over of the opening Test on your Ashes debut requires temperament.
Luckily for England, but not for the suspended David Warner, Root is the Croesus of cricket. Not only did the Yorkshireman refuse to retaliate, he also refuses to hold a grudge.
"That's all behind me now," said Root as he prepares to open for England in their four-day match against Essex, which begins at Chelmsford today. "We've spoken about it for a long time, now I'm just really looking forward to getting out there and getting absorbed."
The cricket just happens to be the biggest series in the game. Not that you would guess it from Root's pragmatic approach, which is in contrast to his exuberance and technical dexterity at the crease.
"I know it's the Ashes but it's just another game of cricket, against 11 blokes. You face the ball coming down just like any other, so it's about trying to manage the atmosphere and everything going on around you. That starts tomorrow with the first ball that I face."
Root is reluctant to cast light on the nightclub incident with Warner. So, like that most famous punch-up in Ashes folklore – Ian Botham v Ian Chappell at the MCG bar in 1977 – the details remain a mystery. That, though, is where the similarities between the feuds end.
Botham and Chappell have rarely spoken since, although each has had plenty to say of the other. England's 1981 Ashes hero has said of Chappell that "as a human being he's a nonentity". For the Australian, there is no love lost: "It would suit me if I never spoke to the guy again."
Unfortunately for the current Australians, the 22-year-old Root possesses a maturity in inverse proportion to his youthful countenance. There will be no long-running feud with Warner and, try as they might, there is no way to get under his skin.
"He's apologised," said Root, "I've accepted it, I'm done with it all and we can move on and concentrate on cricket."
Concentrating on cricket is what Australia, and Warner in particular, have been struggling to do in the build-up to the First Test at Trent Bridge on 10 July. When Darren Lehmann, whom Root remembers from his Yorkshire Academy days, replaced the sacked Micky Arthur as coach, he announced that Shane Watson would open.
While the tale of Root's anointment as opener alongside Alastair Cook felt inevitable, it is not easy to guess Watson's opening partner. Warner was one option, but suspension has ruled him out for the First Test. Ed Cowan is another, but he averages just 32.90 in 17 Tests. Then there is Phil Hughes, with a highest score of 36 in five top-order appearances against England. That leaves Chris Rodgers, 35 and with just one Test cap.
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