WHEN Joe Root steps out at Lord’s on July 6 against South Africa, likely to be his first day as England’s Test captain, he will have a very special guest in the stands - Kevin Sharp, his first coach at Yorkshire.

They go back a long way, first meeting when Root was 13, and approximately a year later this superstar made a lifelong promise to Yorkshire’s then batting coach.

Sharp explained: “When Joe was about 14, we were in the nets, and I said to him ‘you know when you’re playing for England at Lord’s, can you leave me two tickets on the gate?’

“He said ‘of course’.

“The beauty is that every year since he started playing for England, he’s invited me to Lord’s, and I haven’t been. The dates just haven’t fitted. But he keeps reminding me.

“This year, he’s just had a baby, and he sent me a picture. I sent him a congratulations message back. The bottom line of his response was ‘when are you coming to Lord’s?’

“So I’ve booked it. I’m going on July 6, the first day of the South Africa Test. It looks like he’ll be skipper, so it’s quite ironic.”

Root’s appointment as England’s 80th Test captain, succeeding Alastair Cook, is not certain, but it surely can’t be anyone else.

Here is a highly respected batsman with 53 Tests and 11 centuries in 4,594 runs to his name since debuting in late 2012.

The boy from Sheffield Collegiate is now one of the big five batsmen in world cricket alongside Virat Kohli, Steve Smith, AB De Villiers and Kane Williamson.

Root has not had masses of captaincy experience throughout his career, but he has had some.

He skippered Yorkshire’s age-group teams at under 13s, 15s and 17s level as well as their Academy team. He then led the England Lions once in 2013 before leading Yorkshire in three County Championship matches in 2014, winning one.

“I thought it would come one day,” admits Sharp of the England captaincy. “He’s the sort of lad, the day I met him, you knew there was something special.

“He’s just a nice package of a lad. He’s got a high work ethic, likes to be challenged, loves the big stage and is a good team man.

“It would be no surprise should he be made captain.”

Sharp played 218 first-class matches as a batsman between 1976 and 1990, the majority for Yorkshire, before a move to coaching.

He left Yorkshire in late 2011 after playing a part in many a young batsman’s development, including Jonny Bairstow and Gary Ballance.

But Root is the prime example.

Although fellow Collegiate graduate Michael Vaughan was a role model, Root namechecks Sharp, now at Worcestershire, as one of the biggest influences on his career, and recalls in his autobiography their first meeting when he was awarded a scholarship through the county club.

Here, Sharp tells his side of the story: “It was incredible.

“As club batting coach, what I used to do with a scholar as young as that was arrange for them to come to Headingley and get to know them.

“So Matthew, his dad, brought him up one evening after school. We had a chat and did a bit of work in the nets. Immediately, he impressed.

“I’d arranged to meet Joe about 5pm.

“Beforehand, I was having a session with Anthony McGrath. But, unbeknown to me, Joe and his dad had arrived a little bit early and were watching from the bar area of the Indoor School.

“When I got to meet Joe, we went to chat in the office.

“I was asking about his game and what he was good at and not so good at. It was like talking to an adult, he could have been 25-year-old.

“I remember thinking very clearly ‘if you can bat as well as you can talk, you’re going to be good’.

“We then had about half an hour left, so I asked whether he wanted to do anything in the nets’. He said ‘yes, please’.

“I wanted to challenge him, so I asked what he wanted to do. He said ‘I want the same session Anthony McGrath’s just had’.

“Now, that was quite an intensive session. I was throwing a new ball at Mags, we had set up a game situation, and I had put cones out for slips fielders and gully, short-leg, etc.

“If you can picture it, he’s smiling away and looking at me - and he looks right into your eyes. I said ‘I can’t do that because I’ll hurt you’.

“He looked at me again, smiled and said ‘I’ll be alright’.

“Anyway, this got my beans going. I was thinking ‘what the hell’s going on?’ I’d never experienced anything like it.

“So I told him to get all his protective equipment on, his helmet, chest guard, box, inside thigh guard, the lot because I’m coming for you. He just said ‘right, good’.

“Anyway, after I’d set it up, I said ‘right Joe, we’ve got 15 minutes, you’ve asked for this, and I’m not going to be your friend. Do you understand?’ He smiled, nodded and said ‘that’s fine’.

“I was still thinking ‘what’s going on?’

“So I run in with this new ball, and I could throw then as well. But he’s playing beautifully. It was clear he could play as well as talk.

“Then, that little voice in my head said ‘bowl him a bouncer’. The other voice said ‘I can’t do that. If I hit him on the head, I’ll be in trouble’.

“I thought ‘no, sod it, I’m going to let him have one’.

“It was a beauty, just clipping his grille. I followed through and stared at him. But he just looked at me, smiled and nodded and said ‘ooh, that were a good ball’. It was priceless.

“After we’d finished, I was blown away. I was adamant we’d found something special.

“I went upstairs to Ian Dews, our Academy director, who was in his office. I said ‘I’ve had this little Joe Root in. I’m going to make a statement here - he’ll open the batting for Yorkshire one day’.

“Here we are today…

“A new ball around his earholes was what he asked for, and it was if he was preparing himself for the top level even then.”

Mentor Sharp and captain-elect Root, a two-time Ashes winner who debuted for Yorkshire with 63 in a Pro40 match against Essex at Headingley in 2009, remain in touch.

However, Sharp does not expect a call from Root seeking advice on whether or not to take on the England captaincy.

“I’d be very surprised if he asks questions about whether he should do it or not. I just think he’ll say ‘yes, lad’,” he admitted. “If he did, I’d say ‘go for it’.

“He’s just the sort who thrives in the limelight.

“For me, it’s a no brainer. I don’t think it will affect his performance. I’ve got no reservations.

“He’ll have a great respect from his team-mates. I know that. The lads at Yorkshire think the world of him because he’s kept his feet on the ground.

“Wherever he’s got to, he’s still a great bloke.

“He doesn’t forget either. Like the bloke who coached him when he was 13, he hasn’t forgotten.”

Sharp is now working hard at New Road trying to develop another batsman of Root’s calibre. It will be tough, but the likes of Joe Clarke and Brett D’Oliveira are already making waves.

“I’ve actually done a template here at Worcester as to what Joe’s strengths are and what it takes to be the very best,” he added.