England are casting an eye towards their white-ball future this week against Ireland, but first-time skipper Zak Crawley is thankful to have the vastly-experienced Joe Root by his side for the series opener at Headingley.
With England’s World Cup defence just around the corner – they depart for India next week and begin the tournament on October 5 – Root is the only member of the first-choice squad taking on the Irish.
He asked to be added to the squad for Wednesday’s first ODI at his home ground, targeting one more innings to find the form that eluded him in the recent matches against New Zealand.
And the outing should prove mutually beneficial, with Root bringing 162 caps and a decade of experience to a squad that is conspicuously callow. The remaining 12 players have just 38 one-day appearances between them at international level, with four uncapped newcomers and three more who have turned out exactly once.
Crawley himself is barely any further along, with his three ODIs coming two summers ago as a result of Covid withdrawals, and he is more than happy to have the old, familiar face of his first Test captain on hand.
“I love spending time with Rooty. To have him in the side as a batsman and former captain is going to be tremendously useful for me and the team,” he said.
“It’s great having him here. Especially so for me as captain, because I can lean on him for that kind of stuff. I played under him for a long time and stood next to him at slip when he was Test captain. It’s great to have him in the team and I will look to him. He’s a great cricket brain and experienced guy.
“No-one works harder than Joe, that’s why he’s the best. We all try to emulate him as much as we can. He’s a great person to learn from and a role model for us all. I hope he gets what he needs from it too.”
What Root really needs, after scoring 39 scratchy runs in four innings against the Black Caps, is a chance to feel bat on ball and relocate his timing before jetting off to India. Crawley, for one, expects nothing less.
“If anyone has forgotten how good he is, that’s their fault,” he said. “He’s just using it to find some rhythm – he’s a big rhythm player.”
For Crawley and those at his side, the next three games could well be the gateway to future opportunities.
“We’re trying to get this group to become the main team one day,” he said.
“We’re looking at the future and trying to emulate those guys above by doing the same things, playing the same positive way and trying to copy them as much as possible. I’ve just got to concentrate on getting runs this week. If I don’t get any runs then that makes it hard to do that.
“Hopefully I just perform well this week and what comes from there comes from there.”
Crawley admitted to feeling “shocked” when head coach Matthew Mott invited him to be captain, a rapid promotion for someone who was angling for nothing more ambitious than a place on the teamsheet.
But it reflects a growing feeling that he is one of the players who will lead English cricket forward in the years to come. When Root resigned from Test duty last year there was a lack of viable alternatives in the next generation, with successor Ben Stokes not only the best choice but the only one.
Ollie Pope has since been installed as his vice-captain in the red-ball format and Crawley has now joined his old childhood rival on the fast-track. He still remembers captaining his school Tonbridge against Pope’s Cranleigh side.
“It was a good game but they beat us. Popey got 100, obviously,” he recalled.
“So I’ve captained growing up and I’ve captained a few times for Kent, but that’s the extent of my experience. The good thing Baz McCullum has done, and Stokesy, is they’ve encouraged everyone to speak up.
“You feel very comfortable speaking up in the dressing room. More people have come out of the woodwork and led from the front, there’s leaders everywhere you look and that’s a good sign.
“I remember Shane Warne saying you should always think like a captain when you’re playing, I’ve done that since I was a kid.”