Joe Root wants England’s cricketers to follow Gareth Southgate’s lead at this summer’s World Cup, winning the nation’s hearts and minds as they battle for the trophy.
Southgate visited Eoin Morgan’s squad when they gathered in Cardiff last month, addressing the players for more than an hour and presenting them with memento shirts.
As tournament hosts and world numbers ones, Root and company will be hoping to go at least one better than the semi-final appearance the footballers managed in Moscow but Southgate’s inspirational brand of leadership proved a hit.
The country fell back in love with Southgate’s England last summer, and with men’s and women’s Ashes series following the World Cup, 2019 is cricket’s chance to take the spotlight.
“Gareth was great. He spent a good amount of time talking to the guys, not just individually but as a group, and I was really appreciative of him giving up his time to do that,” Root told Press Association Sport.
“It was really insightful. A lot of it was based around being good people, creating opportunities to improve yourself and the people around you and there was a lot of crossover between that and how we want to go about things as a side.
“Cricket has a really big chance of grabbing the nation, just like it did in 2005. We want to make the sport as big as it can be in this country. It’s a massive chance to drive our game forward and become more popular, whether that’s men, women or young kids.
“What more could we ask for than a World Cup and Ashes, and with the side playing well too it’s shaping up nicely.”
Moeen Ali joined Root at the NatWest #NoBoundaries event in London and was equally buoyed by the example set by the Three Lions in Russia.
“Gareth has done an amazing job. They were probably in the same situation when he took over as we were in 2015 and they just showed that if you do things right you can go and do well in World Cups,” said the all-rounder.
“He gave an amazing talk and then I just badgered him about the Liverpool boys for a while, the guys were getting annoyed at me asking so many questions.
“Our job is to inspire the nation and get people who’ve never played cricket before to pick up a bat and ball.”
Home advantage could prove a big boost to England’s hopes of landing a first-ever World Cup success, but it is the chance to have down time with family rather than familiarity with conditions that means most to Root.
“My son (Alfred) is not quite old enough to sledge me yet. I can go home and everything will be alright,” he said.
“I’m still his best pal, I don’t have to worry about being told off about my batting yet. To be able to go home in between and enjoy the important things in life does make it that bit more special and I’m looking forward to making the most of it.”
The first match of England’s one-day international series against Pakistan was washed out after just 19 overs on Wednesday, with the sides reconvening at the Ageas Bowl on Saturday.
That should be Moeen’s first appearance of the summer, having been granted a couple of days to rest an injured rib.
“The rib is good, I’m ready to go and back in training,” he said.
:: Joe Root and Moeen Ali are NatWest ambassadors, helping champion cricket at all levels as part of this year’s #NoBoundaries campaign, which will see NatWest continuing its work to ensure cricket remains a game for everyone no matter their background.