Cricketer Joe Root started 2016 as the world’s top-ranking Test batsman. The Yorkshireman talks about his new house, playing for England and a love of his home county.
I first picked up a cricket bat when I was a baby. It was just a toy one but I was playing by the time I was 18-months-old. Mum still has a photograph of me practising. Dad would throw a ball at me in the back garden, or on the driveway of the family home in Dore, a village in South Yorkshire, near Sheffield.
Later, I remember my younger brother Billy and I travelling to watch Dad play for Sheffield Collegiate on the weekends. We would be waiting impatiently on the driveway for Dad to come out – that’s how keen we were! It’s amazing that both of us grew up and went on to play for Yorkshire County Cricket Club.
Despite our enthusiasm, we weren’t always welcome in the team dressing room. I would hound Dad’s team-mates to bowl at me behind the pavilion while they waited to bat. Once Billy hid in a player’s cricket bag and then jumped out – he gave the man a real shock!
My Dad, Matt, was the biggest influence on my career but we also enjoy a great tradition of cricket in Yorkshire. You can see village teams playing every weekend and the standard is high.
Perhaps the player who inspired me most is a fellow Yorkshireman – Michael Vaughan. I was glued to the television screen when he led England to a famous Ashes win against Australia in 2005. We both played for Sheffield Collegiate and he’s a great friend too.
I went to school at King Ecgbert Secondary in Dore but left after my GCSEs to concentrate on cricket. My dream was always to play for England and I practised long and hard to further my career. I made my first team debut for Yorkshire when I was still 19.
People sometimes ask what I would have done if I hadn’t made it in cricket. I studied fine art at school and always fancied being an artist. I carry my sketch book with me when I’m away on tour with England. I find it very relaxing to draw but I’m no expert.
The same could be said of my guitar playing! I started off on a ukulele because it was small and easy to carry around in my luggage. I’ve progressed to a proper guitar now and I’m doing my best to learn different songs.
I still find it hard to sleep the night before I play for England. I have to pinch myself sometimes to realise what I have achieved. Sometimes I watch a detective series on the hotel television, or call friends. The temptation is to reach for the guitar but I think that annoys the players in the room next door!
Even though I’m now 25 and a regular with England, I can’t wait to get home and see my friends and family in Yorkshire. In fact, I’ve just bought my first house. It’s close to my parents place in Dore and I love it. I sleep best in my own bed and it’s a real treat to have a lie in.
I’m still furnishing the place but the first items I bought were a big television and a sofa. Everything else just fits in around that! I didn’t find it difficult leaving my family home because I was away playing with England and Yorkshire much of the time anyway.
Training with my Yorkshire team-mates in Leeds is just as must fun as when I first started six years ago. We have a nutritionist too but if I’m honest, I don’t really stick to a diet. I like a bacon sandwich for breakfast, or cereal with chocolate chips on top!
And we’re spoilt rotten with lunch at Yorkshire. It’s usually pasta, or my favourite, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. But if I’m not training, I go to the nearest takeaway restaurant. I actually enjoy cooking for myself too but Carrie, my girlfriend, is much better than me.
I’m very proud to be from Yorkshire.
It’s not just because I come from a long line of players, like Geoff Boycott, Ray Illingworth, Len Hutton and Michael Vaughan. There’s a great sense of belonging here. It’s a beautiful place to live and I always look forward to coming back.