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Joe Root – A Multipurpose Masterclass in Making

September 12, 2016

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All the reasonably good batsmen at the international level these days have more or less all the strokes in their cricketing books. But when it comes to test batting, it’s not only about knowing how to play such strokes, it’s about knowing when to play those. That gives you the extra edge to elevate your game to the next level. The ability of eliminating the threats and playing low risk shots for high rewards is something what separates great players from the rest. And what we have witnessed of late is the transformation of a very good cricketer into a future cricketing legend. If test batting is an art, he is surely the modern day Picasso of that – Joe Root is the man whom I am talking about.

The best thing to have happened to him and his team was his move to number three. After an early flourish at the top followed by some consistent runs as a middle order batsman made the English team management realize that being blessed of the ability to bat anywhere up or down the order he would be the best bet at one-down. The decision worked out brilliantly as not all the time Root needs to walk out at, say, 30-2 or 50-3; he can rather avert the crisis before it arrives.

He was a revolution in Manchester against Pakistan. The way he cut out the risks while facing both pace and spin was the most absorbing part of his career best 254. He had problems with the drives against the deliveries that came slanted across him. So this time around he decided to take an off stump guard and leave everything of fourth stump line. He refrained from the big cover drives. Whenever he drove it went either to the right of the man at mid off or straight down the ground, which meant he played mostly with the full faced straight bat. Effectively he took the slip cordon fielders out of the equation. Also he got into great positions and picked the length fractionally earlier than the others do – something that really made the difference.

Root also pulverized Yasir Shah majestically by nullifying turn with the use of his feet. Not necessarily he came charged down the track every time, but he used the depth of the crease magnificently to work out the different sweeps he possesses. Needless to say, the range of his sweep is world class. He can hit the bowlers from mid wicket to fine leg along with reverse sweeps, scoops and the slog sweeps which contribute more to his tally. It was just about enough to dethrone the number one test bowler from his rankings.

Joe Root is no longer the predictable batsman he was during the Australian Summer of 2013-14. It seemed that Mitchell Johnson devised a perfect plan of pushing him back and back with the short pitched stuffs and suddenly trap him with the one pitched right up on his toes. Now he is good enough to disallow the bowlers to get into his mind. Moreover he is neither a front-foot nor a back-foot player. He is well alert to the dangers that used to get rid of him early on his career. These days he is backs himself to stand tall against the short balls and punch those off the back foot playing right on top of the bounce. It makes the bowlers to go full at him, and as they do so, Root is happy to hit them through the line past mid off. He looks comfortable while playing strokes both sides of the wicket, yet prefers neither. More importantly his balance at the crease is now better than ever. Such a batsman is nightmare to bowl against for any bowler in the world.

Just because I have only mentioned his master-class display of pure test batting backed by his sublime form, it doesn’t mean that his limited over performances are not worth mentioning. He is in fact the only English batsman of late to have blossomed this much in all the formats. Yet he looks in great shape with the fitness he holds. And to my opinion, that’s what potentially makes him a very strong candidate to be one of England’s all-time greats. The numbers say a lot for his achievements as his test average has ballooned from 52 to the other side of mid fifties in no time.

Apparently Root appears to be a batsman somewhere between Cook’s old fashioned test batting and Pietersen’s aggression. However, there have been occasions when we felt like visualizing the best of those two embodied by Root himself. Nobody in England looks as elegant as Joe Root does while playing those back-foot punches. Arguably he may well be put in the same bracket along with Graham Gooch from the skill point of view. Also with his sheer silky touch-play, in the days to come we might also see him to be a batsman close to what David Gower used to be.

Clearly this is the best we have seen Root bat. But can he improve further? Well, perhaps it’s difficult to improve from what he did on his way to a breathtaking 254 at the Old Trafford; one thing is for sure – he will never hold himself back. I still remember his shake of head while heading towards pavilion despite his ten hours’ stay at the middle. It goes to show that the youngster is never satisfied with what he has made but wants to contribute more and more. This is the same hunger of runs that made the legends like Tendulkar, Lara or Ponting. And if Root continues the same way as he has been doing for quite some time, I repeat, he is a legend in making; one of the greatest batsmen England have ever had, if not the greatest Englishman ever.

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