For part 2 of my look at future great Test batsmen, I turn my attention to England’s Joe Root.
The darling of the England cricket team and all-round nice guy, Joe Root has enjoyed immediate success in his first 2 years in the Test game. When he made his debut in Nagpur in 2012 at just 21 years of age, he was a complete unknown on the international stage, and his calm maiden innings of 73 in alien conditions was a sign of things to come. He followed up his solid start with twin hundreds in the home series to New Zealand, to further cement his place in the test side.
The early stages of his career were played out from the comfort of the middle order. His hundreds against the Kiwi’s catapulted him into pole position to replace the out of favour Nick Compton at the top of the order. Over the following 10 Ashes Test Root’s form and confidence would take a dip as did his scores with the bat.
His technique, predominantly back foot, is ideally suited to his middle order role. His promotion to the top of the order failed for a few reasons, but the main culprit was his inability to counter the full length bowled by the opening bowlers. He was often too late to get the pitch of the ball and ended up playing the ball while still on the move. In the middle order, he has been afforded more time to bed in and would often be facing predominantly spin.
As Root has been allowed more time in the middle order he has started to grow as a Test batsman, making 3 big hundreds last summer against India and Sri Lanka.
However, we all know that Root’s technique will stand up to the rigours of Test cricket, that has been apparent since his vigil in Nagpur.What has been so impressive about the young Yorkshireman is his temperament at the crease, and the way he can already take on great responsibility. He has nailed down the number five position and is already considered England’s lynchpin in the middle order.
His unbeaten double century against Sri Lanka belied his age as he guided England to a mammoth total of 575 after teetering on 120/4. It is the calmness at the crease that marks Root out, while it is perhaps more evident in ODI run chases, his mental ability in Tests is not to under-estimated. He appears to have no trouble judging the situation before him, and playing his innings accordingly. Something a number of young players have had trouble with when making the step up from First Class to Test cricket.
Root is destined to not only be a great batsman, but also, if he can remain the same, a firm fan’s favourite. Similar to Steve Smith, who he will no doubt become very familiar with over the next decade, Root appears at ease in front of the camera and have a genuine joy from playing the game.
Unless something dramatic happens, I expect to see Root not only pile up a mountain of runs, but also skipper his side to numerous successes. He has both the technique and temperament to succeed with the bat and also the character to lead his country.