CRICKET NEWS - England Test captain Joe Root has said watching the first few episodes of a documentary about the Australian cricket team has been a "motivator" ahead of the 2021/22 Ashes Down Under.
'The Test' charts Australia's progress from the low of the 2018 ball-tampering scandal in South Africa through to the high of retaining the Ashes in a drawn series in England last year after the hosts and eventual champions beat them in the World Cup semi-finals.
The largely well-received documentary has also been accused of being a public relations exercise given Cricket Australia had editorial control.
But with cricket suspended worldwide because of the coronavirus pandemic, Root decided to take a look.
"Whilst we were away (on tour) I exhausted a lot of the shows that I wanted to watch, it's come round to watching that now," he told reporters in a conference call on Monday.
"It's been a good motivator to get back and train, get back on the bike, use it as a way of incentivising myself.
"I've only got to the start of the World Cup, so we'll see how the rest of it unfolds."
Root, while acknowledging the importance of the World Test Championship, made clear an Ashes series in Australia remains the acid test for an England cricketer.
Under his leadership, England were beaten 4-0 in the 2017/18 Ashes.
But Root said the threat posed by the likes of fast bowler Mark Wood, man-of-the match in the fourth Test victory against South Africa, added an "X-factor" to England's attack.
"We've seen in South Africa that has played a part, it has found us a way to take 20 wickets in foreign conditions."
Turning to top-order rising stars Dom Sibley and Ollie Pope, Root added: "If we can keep putting experience into a number of the young batters as well, give them game time, then we're starting to build a team that has confidence, experience, is ready and hardened for the challenges Australia will throw at us."
England followed the drawn Ashes campaign with a 3-1 series win in South Africa only to see their tour of Sri Lanka abandoned before the first Test due to the coronavirus.
"There are more important things to concern ourselves with," said Root, now a patron of his local Sheffield Children's Hospital.
"But from a cricketing point of view we were preparing ourselves well for the two Test matches in Sri Lanka and we made big strides in South Africa."
Root, while acknowledging there would be talks regarding leading players taking pay cuts to help English cricket balance its books at a time without fixtures, said "it's not my area of expertise".
But he added the prospect of the 2020 season being abandoned completely had "definitely crossed my mind".
"It might be that my wife has to start giving me some throw-downs in the back garden but until things become that drastic it will be simply sit tight and wait," said Root.
Asked if his wife was giving him throw-downs, he replied: "Not yet. I'll do a lot of fielding and given Alfie (Root's son) a lot of throw-downs. He's about 500-4 at the minute, bit of a flat track here.
"I haven't picked a bat up yet, so I'm sure at some point I'll be raiding the garage and shadow-batting in the house."
But Root stressed it was impossible to replicate the environment of the dressing room.
"You spend a long time working towards something collectively and when that comes back round, it's a very special thing.
"At times you can take that for granted, especially when you play as much as we do."