Joe Root admitted to feeling emotional after an evening spent watching video messages from friends, family and famous faces – and listening to a moving speech from Ben Stokes – was followed by the dream-like start to his 100th Test.
Speaking after stumps on day one in Chennai, when he was unbeaten on 128 to continue a personally golden start to 2021, the England captain revealed his teammates had sprung a surprise the night before by showing him a compilation of tributes from well-wishers.
The video included words from Ed Sheeran, Harry Kane and players from Root’s beloved Sheffield United, as well as the 13 living members of the 15-strong club of England cricketers to win 100 caps. And with his vice‑captain and close friend Stokes also speaking to the group, Root was seemingly inspired.
“It’s very special,” Root said. “Last night the guys actually put a little surprise together for me – some videos from some past players, some friends and family. Ben in particular stood up and said some really kind words.
“Then for us to start this series in the way that we have, it couldn’t have gone any better bar a little blip at the end. So I really hope we can build on that and obviously I’m delighted with how things have gone personally.”
Asked what Stokes had said, Root replied: “I think that should stay between the two of us and the group, but Ben’s a fine human being and it was really nice of him to go out of his way to say some very special things that I will hold dear for ever.
“I was a little bit emotional [at the toss]. I couldn’t even remember our team when they asked me about it. I was a little bit all over the place, but thankfully when I got out there I knew it was business as normal and I had a job to do.”
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While Root struggled with cramp by the end of the day, his performances this winter point to a new level of hunger to bat for long periods, with the two sessions he batted on day one following on from more than 1,000 minutes at the crease in Sri Lanka.
“I certainly feel like I’m in some good form and I need to make sure I cash in on it. The challenge will be if I keep getting myself in positions to make big hundreds, then I’ve got to keep taking them. We’re going to win more games if I’m doing that.
“I invested in an exercise bike and have been doing a lot of work on that. I have also tried to follow the programme that [fitness coach] Phil Scott puts together for us, trying to make my back a little bit more manageable and also to try make my legs and backside a little bit stronger, in particular.
“A combination of those things has had a significant impact on my game and I will continue to work at that side of improving my skill as a player. Physically I feel in as good a shape as I ever have.”
On Dom Sibley, who fell for 87 before the close, Root said: “To come out with maybe a few question marks in his mind about his game against spin and put a performance early on in this series like that was really impressive. He should take a lot of heart and confidence from that.”