Joseph Edward Root a.k.a Joe Root. Yes that’s the name that is engraved atop the ICC Test Rankings (at the time of publishing of this post). This bloke from Yorkshire has come a long way since his debut for Yorkshire Second XI at the age of 17! People knew right away that he was the one for the future. Some even compared his batting style to former England captain Michael Vaughan.
Some might have considered it as an overstatement then. But today, it wouldn’t be one if I say that Root is the mainstay of England batting (as we have seen so far in the Ashes). He’s come a long way since his debut against India and played his part in the historic series win against the Indians scoring a match-defining 73 runs.
He’s had a bit of roller-coaster ride after that debut game before finally getting into his comfort zone. His undulating ride can be attributed to the fact that his batting position was not fixed at the start of his career. Originally an opener, he started off as a No. 6 on the international stage. Since then he’s played at different positions while finally settling into the No. 5 position (though he played at No. 4 in the last Ashes Test).
Joe Root is only 24, yet one of the most acclaimed batsmen in the world today (as the ICC Test Rankings would second it). He’s in the form of his life and has been on a roll in the Ashes so far. He has been pivotal in the victory over the Aussies in Ashes.
He is a baby-faced temperamentally orthodox English assassin. He’s a very good player. An average of 56 in 31 Tests is indeed praiseworthy. However his average in England is far better than his away average. He’s 64 at home and 43 away. He has struggled plenty in Australia (27) and New Zealand (18) but did well in India, although that was only one Test match. He has played 20 of his 31 tests at home. As we all know, the great batsmen all score runs away from home. Root has time on his side to do just that. I guess we will know more as England tour overseas.
Root has had an engaging duel with Steven Smith over the last 12 months. Root has a more superior technique in my opinion and is a more stable batsman and is often troubled by full-length deliveries. Root plays by his strengths and has an extremely effective square cut. I really like Root’s technique against spin. There is a sense of admirable calm around his batting. However as the Aussies have proved over the course of the Ashes series that when confronted by a barrage of short balls this sense of calmness has been disrupted, albeit briefly. That’s not been restricted to just Root though. He struggled, along with everyone else, Down Under and even against the Lankans, he was discomforted at times and bounced out by Ishant Sharma at Lord’s. He needs to address that question. It shouldn’t be a hindrance for Root as in modern day cricket, a batsman is not tested until he’s forced back.
And Root is a fighter. He has a natural flair. He’s an orthodox batsman who takes time to settle. However, if required he can adapt himself according to the situation and play a breezy knock. He has the temperament to occupy the crease for long duration and the mental resilience to leave the balls outside off and wait for a bad delivery. He has such varied shots in his artillery that anything short is dispatched with grace using the back-foot shots – cuts, pulls and square drives.
One thing that is distinctly noticeable about his batting is his stance. Root holds his bat up high above his waist at the approximate point at which the quick bowler releases the ball. This is a distinct feature of English batting. Gooch and Tony Greig had similar high back-lifts. I am not a cricket expert but in my opinion such a high back-lift causes lack of balance. As a result, Root is not always in the perfect position to play the drives because his back foot is firmly entrenched and which in turn restricts the movement of his front foot and brings the wicket-keeper into play for a possible nick. The Aussies have exploited it in the last Ashes series in Australia and set it up perfectly in Cardiff in this Ashes only for Hadds to drop that catch and the match as well. Since then, Aussies have failed to execute the plan as they would have liked and Root has been milking runs ever since.
Joe Root is a fine young cricketer and is probably on his way to being one of the best if not the best batsmen in the world. However, he needs to address certain flaws in his batting if he is to fulfill his undoubted talent. All the great batsmen have done it before. Steve Waugh ditched the pull shot, Ricky Ponting had to check his natural instinct to drive each ball outside off and so did the great Sachin Tendulkar who curbed his aggressive style of play. In the long run, Root needs to stop falling back against quality quicks. Only then the ‘Hall Of Fame’ would be his.