Kevin Sharp, for many years a player and coach at Yorkshire, worked with Root as a developing player. Now head coach of Worcestershire, Sharp believes 21-year-old Clarke shares many of the same attributes as the England captain and feels he would do well if picked for the Test team this summer.
“Yes, he could be the new Joe Root,” Sharp told ESPNcricinfo. “He reminds me a lot of Joe Root’s credentials.
“I met Joe Root as a 12-year-old and he had something special straight away. I knew that from day one. The way he went about his tasks, the way he talked about the game and the way he went about planning: he was always planning for the next level.
“Joe Clarke’s the same. He’s a fine young player. He wants to play all types of cricket for England. He’s very self-driven.
“A few years ago I told Joe Root to look out for a guy called Joe Clarke. He said ‘All right. OK then.”
Clarke is clearly a huge fan of Root. During the days when the England and England Lions squads trained together in Australia during the Ashes tour, Clarke could be seen sitting in the closest net to Root as he batted and watching his every move intently. And, while Clarke did not score especially heavily on the Lions tour in the Caribbean, he redeemed himself with scores of 46, 71 and 112 in the North v South games. He had previously become the first teenage Lions player since Root.
With England struggling to find much consistency in their middle-order batting since Ian Bell, Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen left the team, Clarke could even himself in the Test team within weeks. He is clearly highly thought of by the likes of Andy Flower and, if he starts the county season well, he will have given himself an excellent opportunity to push for a middle-order spot.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if he was picked,” Sharp said. “He would do well. He believes in himself, he’s hungry and he concentrates well. It absolutely wouldn’t be a problem if he got picked. He wouldn’t let himself or anybody down.”
Of more concern to Worcestershire could be the fact that Clarke is out of contract at the club at the end of the season. Counties can make 28-day approaches to players (that means they can notify the county of a player who is out of contract at the end of a season and inform them they wish to speak to that player in 28 days) from April 10 this year and Clarke is likely to have several big-budget suitors.
It may be relevant that he retains aspirations to keep wicket – a skill he feels could help him when it comes to England selection – and his ability to do so at New Road is blocked by the excellence of Ben Cox.