JOE Root's remarkable emergence at international level has put him bang on course to be part of England’s bid for back-to-back Ashes in the next 12 months.
There are plenty willing to even predict it will be he, rather than incumbent Nick Compton, who walks out to open the batting with captain Alastair Cook in the first Test against Australia at Trent Bridge in July.
The young Yorkshireman insists he has no specific designs on that role, intent instead merely on stating his case for Test inclusion first of all here in New Zealand and then at home next summer.
He can start by augmenting his run of form since making his Test debut at Nagpur in December, if selected for England’s four-day warm-up match against a New Zealand XI in Queenstown this week.
Root lost out to Compton in their tour-match duels in India for the right to replace retired captain Andrew Strauss at the top of the order alongside his successor Cook.
Natural justice – after Compton vindicated that decision with several attritional and worthy innings, including one half-century – ought to perhaps dictate that he has earned the right to prove his worth in less exacting climes.
There is room for both aspirants certainly in the first of three Tests against New Zealand in Dunedin next week, with Root in the number six position he filled so successfully to help England draw the final match in India and therefore complete a historic and unlikely series victory.
The 22-year-old has since consolidated impressively, and demonstrated his versatility, with a string of significant one-day international contributions in the middle order, where he has yet to be dismissed under 30 after seven innings.
He has long been accustomed to opening in four-day cricket but will happily bat wherever he is needed for England.
‘‘I just want to play,’’ said Root. ‘‘I’m not really fussed where it is; I just want to try to get in the side. Whether it means opening the batting or at six, wherever, I just want to represent England.
‘‘It’s a fantastic opportunity and I just want to try to take every chance I get.’’ He is still pinching himself at the events of the past two months, which have included debuts in all three formats and a part in England’s backto- back Twenty20 and ODI series wins already in New Zealand.
‘‘Everything’s happened really quickly for me,’’ said Root. ‘‘If you’d told me this would all happen this time last year, I wouldn’t have believed you.
‘‘To contribute to that limited- overs success hereis really pleasing for me, and I hope if I get a chance I can do the same in the Test stuff as well.
‘‘It’s been fantastic to represent England and I’ve loved every minute of it.
‘‘I just want to keep doing it, whatever the format, and play as much as I can.’’ One thing Root will not be doing is getting ahead of or above himself.
His unfussy assurance, belying an uncannily youthful appearance, has been the hallmark of an early entrance on the world stage which has made such an impression on so many sound judges.
The chance of Ashes glory will be at the back of his mind, but he must start by excelling against New Zealand – opponents he is determined not to underestimate.
‘‘It’s obviously a big year,’’ he said. ‘‘But this is a big series for us.
‘‘We’ve come here wanting to make sure we win all three competitions.
‘‘They’ve got some really good players in that side and they definitely should not be taken lightly, and we won’t be doing that.’’ If all goes to plan, though, Root knows as well as anyone he could even have two Ashes series victories on his CV by his next birthday on the penultimate day of 2013.
He is playing it cool at present, but makes no secret of his burning ambition to join England’s historic opportunity to beat Australia twice between July this year and January next.
‘‘That’s what you grow up watching, what you grow up wanting to play in and dream about as a young kid,’’ he said.
‘‘To be in this position now is encouraging, and it makes you just want to improve enough to get into that side.’’