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Cricket news - In conversation with grandpa Root

'Like I've won the Lottery' - That's how Don describes the feeling of being Joe Root's grandfather

A day after he scored his second century of the World Cup, Joe Root received a phone call from his grandpa Don. It had nothing to do with his batting. Instead, Don had a few words about his grandson's two cheap wickets against the West Indies. "Well done. You've kept up the family tradition of taking wickets with rubbish balls," he said.

Don is equally candid with his views on Joe's cricket when he sits around with his long-time friends and watches cricket on TV at the Sheffield Collegiate Club, located in the family's hometown of Dore in south Yorkshire, regarded the most affluent area of the Sheffield region. That's where we find him on Tuesday (June 18) even as Root is playing a sedate hand in Eoin Morgan's destruction of Afghanistan's bowling attack over at Old Trafford in Manchester.

It's the bartender at the club who points us to the bespectacled grandfather with a furrowed yet beaming face and sleek, shiny grey hair. He's sat on the middle couch surrounded on both sides by two of his oldest mates, with three or four of the rest seated on bar stools or leaning against tables. Like with Grandson Root on TV, it is Grandpa Root here who's under the spotlight. While he watches every ball intensely, Don constantly has to deal with barbs coming his way from all sides.

As Morgan and Root complete their 100-run stand, he's duly reminded by one of his friends that the England Test captain's contribution was a mere 21 runs to the ODI captain's 71. Don simply smiles and insists Joe's playing his role perfectly and for good measure, says, "Come on Joseph, just take a single and give him the strike," at the TV. His friends aren't done though. A couple of over later, Root defies his grandfather's orders from 40 miles away and cross bats a Rashid Khan googly over the mid-wicket fence. "Slogggged itt," shouts Don as the friend to his right inquires, "you didn't teach him that one, did you Don?" The response comes promptly. "Of course I did. That is the only shot I had."c

Nobody dare disturb Don while the cricket is still on, and his friends duly bring him a refill once the 83-year-old is done with the latest pint. Root soon holes out to long-on for 88, and Don shrugs slightly, but is soon clapping his hands loudly and generously as Morgan brings up his century. He then goes, "What a man, what a player," for Moeen Ali, as the left-hander brings the England innings to a close in grand style with two sixes. It's now time for a breather and a chat. No more pints. He's had enough, and there's still the second innings to go.

This is mostly his life now. A lifelong cricket fan who watched Don Bradman score a half-century at Bramall Lane against Yorkshire in 1948 as a 14-year-old, he now spends his retired life watching cricket, mostly here at the club, or the few occasions he gets to see his grandson live in action at stadiums around the world. He's been everywhere from India, Australia and South Africa - where he plans to return later this year. And ask him about what it feels like to be Joe Root's grandfather and pat comes the reply, "Like I've won the lottery. You can't buy it."

Don originally hails from Rotherham, 14 miles north of Dore and on the other corner of Sheffield. His father was a cricketer at senior club level before World War II. But it was his son Matt, Joe's dad, who moved the family over to Sheffield for his own cricket. Matt was good enough to play for Nottinghamshire second Xis. The three generations of the Root family remain very close-knit and still stay within a mile of each other - with Joe having bought his own house beyond the boundary wall of the Sheffield Collegiate Club on the far side. As kids, Joe and his younger brother Billy, who is currently playing for Glamorgan, spent a lot of time at their grandparents' home down the road from their own.

"They lived so close, so we saw a lot of them. When they started playing junior cricket for the schools, I had retired by then, and I took them around. That was a great privilege. I not only saw people like Joe, but people like Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow and Lewis Gregory come through the ranks," recalls Don.

The future England captain's rise was rapid and is rather well-documented. He became the youngest to get a scholarship at Yorkshire, and at 16 he received the best batsman award at the Bunbury Festival and was subsequently picked for the England under-16 team. Grandpa Don though reveals to have grown up with Joe's ascension to super-stardom.

"From the age of 11, Joe has always looked promising. People would say he would play for England. The question you ask yourself is how will he do in the next stage? But Joe has always mounted that hurdle every time," he says.

Don recalls the first professional cricketer of the Root family as a popular child who had a huge number of friends. He also talks about Dore's most popular export as having been good at art - courtesy the genes acquired from his maternal grandmother - and at playing the guitar and banjo. And he talks proudly about how Joe's remained very loyal to his roots.

"In 2013, he got a 100 at Lords in London, he came down here and there was club match on, so during drinks interval he ran out the drinks for the lads. He feels like one of the boys," says Don. Interestingly, Root isn't the first England captain to emerge from the Sheffield Collegiate Club or Dore Primary School two streets away. That honour belongs to Michael Vaughan, who even ran an academy at the same venue where Don and his friends catch up every other day or when the cricket is on.

Don insists on having stopped talking cricket to his grandson when he was 11. But when you bring up the sledging he'd endured from his friends regarding the slog that Root had played successfully during England's innings, his voice gets a serious tone as he says, "He plays proper cricket. When it comes to slogging it, he can't do it and he knows he can't do it. He doesn't have to do anything other than play proper cricket."

Cricket rarely dominates conversations between the two, but that's been the case from the time Joe was still in school, and it was completely off the menu on days back then when he hadn't done too well.

"I remember taking him to Yorkshire schools' matches. And on a rare occasion, he didn't do well and got in the car. I would say 'Joe' and he would immediately put his headphones on and say 'I don't want to talk about it'" recalls Don.

He then reminisces about the time his father took him to see Bradman, and how he couldn't believe the "smallish chap in the gabardine sweater" on the eve of the match he saw was the "little bloke who got 300 runs in a day in Leeds."

"Sidney Barnes and Arthur Morris opened the batting. The 3rd ball of the day, leg stump yorker and cleaned bowled Sidney Barnes. Everyone was so excited and started cheering because Bradman was coming in. When he came in, the biggest impression was his footwork. He was so quick on his feet as he got 50," he recalls. Ask him if he finds his grandson to be equally unassuming and the seniormost Root just smiles and says, "I would hope so."

When he isn't hanging around at the club, Don's at home watching cricket. "Cricket in South Africa is perfect timing wise as is the West Indies. But Australia starts at around 12 at night, and then it depends on how long I can stay awake for." It's time for the second innings now, and perhaps a possibility of Joe carrying on the Root family tradition. And when you ask him whether he's the happiest when watching his grandson play, Don turns around and, nodding his head feverishly, says, "Yes, yes, yes."

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