Joe Root has played 103 tests, captained 50 and scored more runs – with an average of 50 – than any Englishman, Alastair Cook and Graham Gooch. If he quit now, he would already go down like a great one of England. But be warned: Root believes he is about to enter the best phase of his career.
As England prepares for Wednesday’s first test against New Zealand at Lord’s, he feels comfortable with the task ahead – a potentially memorable eight-month period that includes five games against India and Australia, which would can end up with his face chiselled in English crickets. imaginary Mount Rushmore.
Nothing is guaranteed, of course, and Ashes tours can be brutal. But Root, who turned 30 in December, seems in a good place. Scores of 228, 186 and 218 in consecutive Tests in Sri Lanka and India earlier this year confirmed his membership in the so-called Fab Four – with Virat Kohli, Steve Smith and Kane Williamson – and he has strengthened his grip on the helm.
England captain Joe Root believes he is about to enter the best phase of his career
England will play Kane Williamson’s New Zealand for a five-test series against Virat Kohli’s India
Joe Root will be in good batting shape for 2021
Ed Smith’s recent departure as national selector has created a streamlined set-up that gives Root more control over who plays under him, while his relationship with head coach and fellow Yorkshireman Chris Silverwood is rock solid.
He has the respect of his senior teammates, Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad, Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler. He’s even started taking wickets with his underrated off spin, including an absurd five to eight in Ahmedabad.
“ I feel like I’ve grown a lot in the last year or so and now I’m in good control of things, ” he says Sportsmail. “I was clearly disappointed with the way India ended, but I have a feeling that we are making great progress as a test group and that we are entering an exciting phase of competitions where we can really flourish.”
Maybe a cent has fallen in particular. In Galle and Chennai in January and February, Root struck with a determination that was all too often lacking. It was as if he had recognized that turning the 1970s into double hundreds was in fact not selfish, but the best way to win. Setting a good example is suddenly the template.
Then come England’s attempts to reclaim the Ashes when they go Down Under to Australia
“I certainly feel that the best is yet to come,” he says. ‘I want more series like the beginning of this winter, and produce those big hundreds with which you can win series. I am hungry to make the next phase of my career the pinnacle.
‘I’ve worked really hard on a few aspects of my game, both mental and technical. I feel a lot more in control, and like I’m playing the ball much later. For me, that’s the art of hitting – if you can keep your head and hands as close together as possible, you give yourself a better shot. Hopefully I will have a great year. ‘
And the Fab Four? ‘I think that’s more for cricket fans than the four guys being talked about. It’s really nice to be in the same conversation as those three, because they are great players. But it’s about producing, not what’s being said about you. ‘
Root, who spoke at the launch of cinch’s partnership with English cricket, has led the Test team for over four years, which is usually when English captains start thinking about life outside of the world. boundaries.
Root confirmed his spot in the Fab Four with Kohli, Babar Azam (left) and Steve Smith (right)
Cook lasted four and a half years, Andrew Strauss three and a half, Kevin Pietersen a matter of months. Michael Vaughan came for nearly five years and Nasser Hussain got four. For Alec Stewart’s brief reign, Mike Atherton did four and a half, Gooch three and a half.
There is a fixed shelf life, and Root should – in theory – be close to his. But he seems to see his place in the captaincy cycle closer to the end of the beginning than to the beginning of the end. Tellingly, he quotes Graeme Smith, who led South Africa in a world record of 108 tests between 2003 and 2014.
“Everyone’s journey is different,” he says. I think there is a time when you have to call it, or someone will call it for you, but Graeme Smith’s shelf life was much longer than most. I hope this isn’t a massive discussion in the coming period, and I’m leading with a lot of runs from the front. ‘
When Root is warming up his job, he also makes sure he doesn’t run seven home tests and five in Australia as a clean slate after the 3-1 defeat on excessively spinning fields in India.
Root cited Graeme Smith, who led South Africa in a world record 108 tests between 2003 and 2014 covering his own captaincy cycle
“You have to learn and evolve,” he says. Those experiences will serve us well at some point, and it’s important that we don’t just ignore what happened out there.
‘We are going to play in completely different conditions this summer, and in the Ashes, but there are elements of India that we can improve. One thing we can draw from is the pressure side in those difficult situations: how do you deal with it mentally, how do you transfer it to other parts of the world? ‘
Also part of Root’s in-tray is the issue of discrimination, especially racial, and the response of English cricket. Last summer, the Test and one-day players took a knee for games against the West Indies and Ireland, before stopping for visits from Pakistan and Australia. Michael Holding called the switch ‘lame’.
“It’s something we’ve talked about a lot and have a really strong feeling about it,” says Root. ‘It is very important that the game is for everyone and we do everything we can to make sure everyone is fully aware of that.
‘I know we will continue to have those discussions and we will work very hard to use our platform as international players to make the game as diverse as possible. You will certainly see that in the things we will be putting into action this summer. ‘
Root said he understood why some criticized the decision to stop taking a knee in mid-summer
Asked if he can understand why some criticized the decision to stop taking a knee in mid-summer, Root hesitates, then settles for a shortened one-word answer that can reveal as much as it hides: ‘Yes. ‘
It reminds us that the work of a Test captain in the third decade of the 21st century transcends series scoring and series winning. And that’s before we move on to living under Covid, in the ‘safe living environment’, as Root calls it – part of England’s efforts to move beyond ‘bubble’ and its oppressive connotations.
If that means that the new rest-and-rotation policy means he can’t always rely on his first-choice team, then so be it.
“It is of the utmost importance that the welfare of the players comes first,” he says. ‘I think we actually did a pretty good job, and the guys have been honest and open about where they stand. We will see long-term benefits from it. It’s hard to get that balance right, but we’ve tried to get it right with the players. ‘
On the field, Root believes his players are starting to do well and are more consistent
On the field, he believes his players are starting to do him good. “We know we are not the best team in the world right now, and there is really room for improvement,” he says.
‘But we have become more consistent in certain areas that have failed us in the past. We score bigger runs in the first innings. We take 20 wickets away from home more often. If we can continue that trend, we will be knocking on the door sooner rather than later. ‘
And if Root’s bat might need to do a lot of the knocking, you suspect he’s ready.
Joe Root teamed up with cinch, England’s new lead partner, while Ramsbottom CC tried to get him out in the ultimate faff-free match. Head over to @cinchUK on Tuesday to see the hilarious results. cinch takes the hassle out of buying a car with quality controlled used cars delivered straight to buyer’s doorstep wherever they are in mainland UK and a 14 day money back guarantee.