Joe Root provides the sanity in the otherwise destructive batting line-up of England’s ODI team. But what he brings to the test team is a whole different story. A veteran of 100 tests, the leader of the pack, and quite possibly the best player of spin England has ever produced – Joe Root has been busy making history in the last few months.
On his way to reaching the 100 test milestone, he has amassed 3 double hundreds in as many matches; 2 double hundreds in Sri Lanka and one in the first test against India had seen Root’s side cruise to victory in all 3 of these games. With these mammoth performances, Root has climbed to number 3 in the ICC test rankings for batsmen.
Joe Root has been a part of the ‘Fab 4’ of modern batting greats alongside Kohli, Smith and Williamson. However, his form prior to the series against Sri Lanka in January and Babar Azam’s rise to prominence had created debate if the latter should be taking Root’s place in the illustrious Fab 4.
Indeed, in the 21 test matches that Root played in between 2018-19, he averaged a mere 34 runs per innings, having seen his counterparts Kohli and Smith outdo him in his home turf. At the end of his 60th test, Root had an average of 53.76. The average dropped to 49.39 after 99 tests.
However, Root had never been out of form in the conventional sense. He was still making runs, but not at the level at which people deem the Fab 4 to be making runs. Root had been the centre of criticism for his lack of conversion. He got starts, even fifties, but more often than not failed to convert them into big centuries.
All 3 of his contemporaries in the Fab 4 have converted at least 40 per cent of their 50+ scores into centuries (Kohli 54, Smith 47 and Williamson 43 per cent). Prior to the 3 double centuries Root scored this year, he had a conversion rate of only 25.76 per cent only.
Root worked on his game during the lockdown. Former England skipper Nasser Hussain gave an explanation as to what Root did during the break. He was busy looking at his own videos and the modes of dismissal. He even watched videos of other batsmen to assess his own batting style.
Hours were spent working on the technical side of his batting. And it has definitely paid off. In a space of 1 month, Root has gone from being criticised for not converting his 50s into 100s to converting his centuries to match winning double centuries.
At the start of the calendar year, Root was England’s 7th highest run scorer in tests. His outstanding form in the last 2 months saw him climb 4 places into the number 3 spot. At only 30 years of age, Root (8515 runs) is well on his way to breaking Alastair Cook’s record (12472 runs) of being England’s all-time leading run scorer in tests.
Root’s resurgence helped set and break a lot of records in world cricket. With the century in Chennai, Root became the first ever player to have scored 100-plus runs in their 98th, 99th and 100th tests. He is also the only player to score a double century in his 100th test. Alongside Kohli, Root is the only active cricketer to have scored the highest number of 150-plus scores in test cricket – 10. Root has also become the only men's test cricketer from outside Asia to make three 180+ scores in the continent.
Pakistan’s Mohammad Yousuf currently possesses the record for most test runs scored in a calendar year-with a total of 1788 runs in 2006. Joe Root has scored 723 runs in 4 tests in 2021. With England scheduled to play almost 20 tests this year, the former Pakistan batsman’s record is clearly under threat.
Joe Root, the skipper, is leading from the front with the bat. England fans will hope their talisman will keep up this good run of form as the 3 Lions look to reclaim the Ashes in Australia later this year.
The writer is an undergrad student studying at Dhaka University. [email protected]