Sheffield-born Joe Root knows all about busy schedules. Currently with his side on the first of two winter tours – to South Africa then Sri Lanka – the 29-year-old can see the similarities between cricket and golf.
Both sports are slow, leisurely and serene, yet the schedules for them are crammed so tightly that top-level competitors barely feel they have enjoyed downtime before being fired back into competition.
With extensive travel another byproduct of two sports whose global popularity has never been so high, it’s no surprise that the Yorkshireman has found the smaller ball a welcome diversion to his competitive prowess while seeing golf as a perfect way to relax…
RSNG How do the sports compare? JOE ROOT, INTERNATIONAL CRICKETER ‘I haven’t really been playing golf for a huge amount of time, to be honest, but there are clearly similarities. It wasn’t until I was in my late teens that I picked up a golf club properly and started playing regularly.’
‘Since then I haven’t looked back and now I am on the golf course or the driving range as much as I possibly can. With it being a slightly similar game in the way that it’s hand-eye coordination works, it’s actually a very useful way of keeping that motion going away from cricket.’
When we’re going for a round of golf there will be a small wager and quite a few of the lads will get involved
RSNG And better than football as a warm-up sport? JR ‘Yep, football has got a bit of a bad rap recently in terms of pre-match injuries. I think the reality is some injuries are unavoidable, but as a non-contact sport, playing football beforehand probably jars with that.’
‘I think right the way back to Glenn McGrath going over on his ankle back in 2005 ahead of what was a key Ashes Test, and the risk is always there.’
‘With golf, probably the only serious injury you are risking is a back strain when twisting to tee off, or perhaps the threat of pulling something when bending down to pick up the ball.’
‘The reality is both of those actions are synonymous with cricket anyway, so if anything golf provides the perfect warm-up, or alternative sport, to being a cricketer.’
‘I’m not sure how cricket clubs would feel about golf balls being fired about the crease though!’
RSNG How competitive does golf become between your team-mates? JR ‘When we’re going for a round of golf there will be a small wager and quite a few of the lads will get involved. I think it’s good to keep that competitive spirit going when you are together as a group because that is a realistic and useful habit you can take in to day one of a Test, or a T20 fixture.’
‘In some ways it doesn’t make sense to have time together as a group that’s non-competitive, and instantly then to be able to switch it on and move into competitive mode, particularly with something like T20 when you’ve got to be at it from minute one.’
‘For a Test match you can grow into it over the course of the first morning, but either way, having competitive time in the group seems to do us good.’
RSNG Who is the most competitive? JR ‘There are a few – I’ve had some good battles with Joss [Butler] and Jimmy [Anderson].’
‘It helps that we’re all largely of the same level. There are a couple who will always seem to play the good shots at the right time, but in general when we get out for a round of golf there’s a good chance anyone can finish as top dog.’
I guess a lot comes down to mindset – it’s in knowing the moments when you need to attack and the moments when you need to sit back
RSNG What do you like best about golf? JR ‘When at home it’s the ability to go out, get rid of a bit of tension on the course and wind down, normally because we’ve been away or in competitive action, so the time at home really is about getting yourself in recovery and relaxing.’
‘When we’re on tour, golf and other pursuits take on a different meaning, and by that I mean a lot of what we do is there to break up the monotony. Playing a round is more something you will do for entertainment rather than just winding down, so it feels different, and perhaps with that in mind you approach the way you play differently.’
‘It would be interesting to compare shots and the way we approach greens etcetera to see if there is a marked difference. I guess a lot comes down to mindset, which is obviously something vitally important and such a big part of being a golfer or a cricketer – it’s in knowing the moments when you need to attack and the moments when you need to sit back.’
RSNG What’s your take on the pro-am circuit? JR ‘It’s a lot of fun – more nerve-wracking than I thought, but an amazing thing to get up that close to professional players. Some of what they can do is amazing to watch and I’m full of admiration for those guys.’
RSNG What’s the best course you’ve played? JR ‘Not sure about the best but wherever I play I can’t help but think of the great players who have trodden the greens and the fairways, and the huge amount of history you’re a part of. That’s a special feeling and very similar to what we experience at cricketers at Lords, the Gabba, or whenever else we might be playing.’
WHAT NEXT? For more sport synergies read how golf snared former footballer Jamie Redknapp in this RSNG interview.
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