JOE Root first wore the White Rose in the summer of 2002 when he was knee high to a grasshopper, and still at primary school.

He has since graduated through the county’s age group and its famed Academy to reach the very top of the game, captaining England’s Test team for almost three and a half years now.

Yet, despite all he has done in the international game, he admits he still gets the same buzz representing Yorkshire as he did all those years ago.

“I always will,” he said when reflecting on his formative days as a county player. “Playing for Yorkshire, I’ve done it from 11 years old when I played my first representative cricket, and I’ve still got that cap at home now.

“I was extremely proud to wear the White Rose for the first time, and it gave me something to shoot for.

“I was desperate to play for Yorkshire and then for England.

“When I come back to Yorkshire now, I still get the same excitement, even though it’s a very different experience.

“There was a period when I’d come back into a squad filled with players who I’d grown up with.

“That 2014/15 team that won the Championship, the majority of those guys I’d played in the Academy and second team with and had known them for ages.

“Now, it’s a different and younger squad. But that means my role in the team has changed.

“I can pass on a bit more knowledge and share ideas, almost try and give back a bit more. And I’ve really enjoyed that over the last few years.

“Watching guys like Matthew Fisher, Ben Coad, Harry Brook and Tom Kohler-Cadmore flourish into proper first-team players has been great.

“To have the chance to almost speed that process up in a way has been really rewarding.

“That, for me, is a really exciting part of being an international player coming back into county cricket.”

Root, aged 29, has played 270 internationals for England across all formats, including 92 Test Matches and 146 One-Day Internationals. He will be hoping to add significantly to those numbers once the coronavirus pandemic subsides.

He has scored 14,414 runs for England, with 33 scores of 100 or more. But he has demonstrated an ability to bat long for Yorkshire as well, passing 200 on six occasions.

The first of those was a stunning 222 not out on a tricky Ageas Bowl pitch, in a rain-affected draw against Hampshire in 2012.

The fact nobody else in the White Rose's first innings topped 37 indicates the exceptional quality of his innings. Root has also hit three Test double centuries.

And his thirst for batting was, he says, honed during a three-year Academy career between 2007 and 2009, when he played regular Yorkshire Premier League cricket.

“In terms of playing in the Yorkshire League, it was quite hard graft,” he recalled. “As a kid from Sheffield, playing home games at Weetwood in Leeds, it’s like almost every game being an away game.

“It actually makes you really appreciate the opportunity to bat, because you’ve sometimes spent five hours in a car to Scarborough, Driffield and Hull. You don’t want to mess it up!”

Amid the pride of wearing the White Rose as a junior up and comer, Root learnt some valuable lessons as an Academy starlet, ones which will serve any current player in that age group extremely well.

“It’s just like your schooling in a sense, almost an education in cricket,” he added. “You’re constantly learning about the different things when you play in that team.

“You’re learning about the pressures of playing for a different badge.

“I’d been playing for Sheffield Collegiate beforehand, but there are a lot of guys in other teams who are either very jealous of you or just have too strong a desire to prove a point against the Academy.

“There are a number of things which are almost against you.

“You also have that inter-team rivalry which you don’t have in other teams, in the sense that everyone is trying to get themselves into the second team or even win a contract.

“You lose a bit of that team camaraderie. That’s a shame, but it’s part of your learning.

“But you have to realise that to get the best out of yourself, you still have to put the team first.

“I look at the guys who were most successful at county level or went on to play for England and they would play the situation and not play for themselves.

“There were a number of players who fell away because they were so desperate to look after themselves. And it didn’t work out for them.”