York­shire Roots will give Joe that ex­tra Illy fac­tor

Guy Wil­liams talks to Eng­land Ashes leg­end Ray Illing­worth and com­pares the two eras

The Cricket Paper - - FEATURE -

If Eng­land are to re­tain the Ashes and skip­per Joe Root is to re­turn as a con­quer­ing hero, he’ll have de­fied his­tory and join the hand­ful of post-war cap­tains who achieved last­ing fame by win­ning an Ashes se­ries in Aus­tralia. Only five have earned that dis­tinc­tion: Len Hut­ton in 1954-55, Ray Illing­worth in 1970-71, Mike Brear­ley (1978-79), Mike Gat­ting (1986-87) and An­drew Strauss in 2010-11.

Nearly 50 years af­ter his tri­umph, Illing­worth, now 85, and uni­ver­sally re­garded as one of Eng­land’s shrewdest cap­tains, has over­come a heart at­tack, and re­tained his York­shire ex­per­tise and out­spo­ken opin­ions which have not al­ways found favour.

Illy may not like many fea­tures of the mod­ern game (“the pink ball is atro­cious”), but watches it reg­u­larly on the telly at his home at Fars­ley near Leeds, also at­tends matches in the Brad­ford League and still puts down the white­wash on the bound­ary at Fars­ley CC. He re­mem­bers clearly his suc­cess based largely on the feared pace bowl­ing of John Snow (31 wick­ets) and the runs of Ge­off Boy­cott (657), John Edrich (648) and Brian Luck­hurst (with 455).

So as Root pre­pares for the big­gest lead­er­ship chal­lenge of his ca­reer so far, how does Illing­worth rate Eng­land’s chances of win­ning in Aus­tralia?

“I think they are 50/50. To be quite hon­est, Aus­tralia have as many prob­lems as Eng­land. Their bat­ting is very frag­ile. Whilst our bat­ting is not com­pletely set­tled, we have a lot of depth and Eng­land will take a lot of bowl­ing out.

“Aus­tralia may get five out and think they’re OK, but then you’ve got Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali com­ing in who can tap you around for a quick 100 part­ner­ship.

“As re­gards Joe as cap­tain, he’s not had a great deal to do yet. It will be harder out there when good part­ner­ships get go­ing. He’s an ex­pe­ri­enced crick­eter now and I agree with Dickie Bird that Joe is the most stylish and best York­shire bats­man since Hut­ton, and if Joe does bet­ter than Boycs on my tour, he will have proved that point.

“My ad­vice to Joe is that he’s got to make his own de­ci­sions and he’s ca­pa­ble of that. I don’t like to see a team meet­ing at the end of a bowler’s run-up and ev­ery­one chat­ting. Ocas­sion­ally you might want a bloke to con­firm some­thing, but if you’re talk­ing to four blokes, you get four dif­fer­ent pieces of ad­vice. That would never have worked for me. In­tu­ition is a big thing. It’s what you feel as a cap­tain at that time.” If Eng­land are to re­peat Illy’s glory, Root needs his strike bowlers to de­liver match-win­ning per­for­mances. Does Illing­worth feel that Jimmy An­der­son (a record 506 wick­ets) and Stu­art Broad (388 wick­ets) can re­pro­duce Snow’s Ashes win­ning form?

“No. There’s al­ways some­thing the mat­ter with Broad. That’s what wor­ries me about him. He’s got the height which is good for Aus­tralia, but I’ve looked at Broad’s pace and half the time he’s bowl­ing at 78 mph, and if he does that all the time, he won’t get a lot of wick­ets.

“An­der­son will keep go­ing and seems to be fit. He re­mains a steady bowler and An­der­son will swing it in Aus­tralia. There’s no doubt about that. The Kook­aburra ball hasn’t as big a seam and you don’t get move­ment off the seam, but I’ve found it has al­ways swung and if An­der­son is swing­ing it, he’ll get wick­ets.

“[If he goes]Ben Stokes will take wick­ets. He gees peo­ple up, gets up to the mid­dle 80s and has got ag­gres­sion. He might be a bit un­der­bowled, he’ll give a few runs away by ex­per­i­ment­ing, but Stokes is quick enough.

“On my tour we played two spin­ners, my­self and Derek Un­der­wood and we got more than 20 wick­ets be­tween us. Eng­land now should play two spin­ners, but I don’t think they will. They could be­cause Eng­land have enough bat­ting. It de­pends on the wick­ets. They might play two spin­ners at Syd­ney.”

Of course, Root’s at­tack re­quires de­cent to­tals to bowl at and that de­pends to a sig­nif­i­cant ex­tent on the class of Root and Alas­tair Cook who en­joyed a me­morable se­ries in 2010-11 by scor­ing 766 runs av­er­ag­ing 127.66, but was far less pro­lific as cap­tain in Aus­tralian in 2013-14 (246 runs at 24.60) when Eng­land were slaugh­tered 5-0.

“If Eng­land score as many runs as we did back in 70-71, we will win the se­ries, but Aus­tralia have some use­ful bowlers and if they have ev­ery­one fit, they have three or four ca­pa­ble of get­ting up to 90 mph. Mitchell Starc is a good bowler and swings the new ball and you fancy him get­ting a cou­ple of wick­ets with it.

“In support, you have off-spin­ner Nathan Lyon whom I think has done mar­vel­lously well. He keeps it there, spins it, has a high ac­tion and if there’s turn there, Lyon will make Eng­land strug­gle.

“Eng­land rely a lot on Cook and he’s had good and dodgy tours out there. If Aus­tralia bowl at the right place to him, they can get him out. In my York­shire era, I’d like to see Fred True­man and Tony Ni­chol­son bowl­ing at Cook. They would have done him be­cause he doesn’t get for­ward much. If you bowl outswingers around off-stump, com­ing in a bit, and bowl across him, I think you’ll get Cook out.

“Joe’s a good player, gets for­ward and uses his feet well. If I were bowl­ing to Joe, I’d try to do him with a slightly quicker ball be­cause oc­ca­sion­ally you’d catch him on the back foot when he shouldn’t be. That would be my as­sess­ment.”

Read­ily ad­mit­ting that tra­di­tion­ally it’s hard to win in Aus­tralia, not least

If Eng­land score as many runs as we did in 70-71, they will win the se­ries, but Aus­tralia have some very use­ful bowlers

be­cause the crowds are in­tim­i­dat­ing90,000 at Melbourne on Box­ing Day – Illy also says Eng­land face alien con­di­tions.

“The wick­ets are dif­fer­ent be­cause of the bounce. It’s a dif­fer­ent game, par­tic­u­larly in the first hour.You can’t go out there and just push for­ward be­cause the bounce makes that dif­fi­cult, but if you are a good back foot player, that helps in Aus­tralia.”

The me­dia in Root’s reign is a con­stant pres­ence and Illy hopes that Joe is treated bet­ter than he ex­pe­ri­enced.

“Joe won’t find the me­dia any tougher than I did. He won’t have the prob­lems of Jim Swanton ( Daily Tele­graph) and John Wood­cock ( The Times) who wanted Colin Cow­drey as cap­tain. Most of the press will be on Joe’s side.

“At my first press con­fer­ence, Swanton said: ‘Would you be pre­pared to leave your­self out if you weren’t do­ing so well?’ I thought that was an un­rea­son­able ques­tion be­fore the first match, but told him if I was do­ing badly, I would drop my­self. Luck­ily, the nor­mal press were good with me.”

Like the me­dia, the way in which Eng­land are run has un­der­gone a rev­o­lu­tion since Illing­worth’s era, but one as­pect he and Joe have in com­mon is their York­shire her­itage, and like Hut­ton and Illy be­fore him, Root shares their hard­ness in bat­tle and a will­ing­ness to give noth­ing away to Aus­tralia.

PIC­TURES: Getty Im­ages

Heads or tails? Ray Illing­worth, right, and Aus­tralian cap­tain Bill Lawry toss the coin be­fore the fourth Test of the 1970-71 Ashes se­ries. Inset: Illing­worth today

Stylish: Joe Root

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