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Root will have a bright future but...

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Joe Root, the first time you hear this name, few things will come to your mind. Wasn’t he the one who was punched by Warner at the bar? (or Warner swung and missed it too). Isn’t he the one for whom Nick Compton was dropped as an opener for the Ashes? Well, what matters more is he was also backed by the selectors as the new wonder boy for England.

Nick Compton was dropped from the side for his cautious and slow approach to batting at the top. Despite him scoring 2 centuries in his last five Tests, he was dropped for someone England thought would be more positive, Joe Root. The interesting thing is if you look at their First -Class career stats they do not have much difference apart from their age.

The statistics tell you that both of them have reasonably good records for their age. While the exploits of Root in limited over formats may give the impression that he has all the shots possible, England selectors went for it so he had a crack at playing Tests as an opener. England said they wanted to send a message across about being more assertive at the top. Well, unfortunately it hasn’t happened as of now.

Root is the fifth highest scorer of this Ashes series with 260 runs in 4 matches. This record becomes a bit embarrassing if you remove the 180 that he scored at Lords, where he should have been dismissed for 8 but Haddin had other ideas. Root made it count yes; he went on to score a big daddy hundred with all the shots possible. He cut, pulled, swept, scooped, drove but the remaining scores of 30, 5, 6, 8, 13*, 16 and 2 don’t assure you of someone who looks to be in the form.

First-Class Career Stats

 
Player Age Matches Runs Average S.R. HS 100 50
Joe Root 22 49 3393 45.85 51.41 236 9 10
Nick Compton 30 117 7700 43.50 47.13 254* 20 35

 

As an opener you are bound to get the odd low score getting a very good ball early-on in the innings. But Root has been playing the waiting game a bit too much for the liking of his promotion at the top. These runs have come at the strike rate of 41.13, something that he was not selected for. Admitted that Australians have bowled well with the new ball almost every innings so far but his technique hasn’t helped either.

Root has the temperament for Test cricket but for that of an opener is yet to be cementing his place. He definitely has a good defence and tight technique to play late which is a pre-requisite to open the batting and more so in England. But Root has faltered due to his reluctance to come to the front foot. He prefers to hang back and play from his crease. Yes, there have been players who have played well off their back foot. The good hand eye co-ordination and the ability to play help him leave the ball more and pick the right balls to score but this act as a double edged sword. The habit of hanging on the back foot waiting for the ball makes him an easy candidate for LBW and being caught at slips.

He takes the middle and leg guard and plays straight but that restricts his scoring opportunities early on, something he was taken into the side for. Bowlers are happy to keep bowling that line as with a hint of swing he becomes vulnerable. Now one can say that everyone has a weakness. But I just feel it is too much to ask from a 22 year old to open the batting this early in his career. He may as well go through the grind and learn. But then Compton wasn’t doing that bad to be dropped.

Once Root settles down he can be a very difficult batsman to be dismissed. He plays spin equally well and that showed in his debut inning against India in India. Given that Jonny Bairstow has been struggling to score runs at number 6, it won’t be a bad idea to get Root back at number 6 and helping him to settle down with some good contributions. It may not happen considering the selection policies of England. But it is an option worth trying.

Root is a good player no doubt and one to look out for in the future. But it’s just that sometimes we wish too much out of someone which can work against us. Root will have a bright future but as an opener may be he is just not ready.



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