There are seldom players, especially youngsters who are fearless, dauntless of the task or the opposition in front of them and are willing to do anything to be the better player on the field. They invariably come out triumphant, because, as they say, hard work never fails.
Joe Root, the enigmatic Test opener for England, has been one of those youngsters who love to revel in the fight and lay down his everything to achieve a goal.
“The biggest thing about Joe is that the mental side of the game is easy for him. I’ve never seen someone that young have what you need to be able to perform at that level.” - James Anderson
Like James Anderson vouches, Joe Root appears so calm on the field, totally oblivious to the happenings around him. He focusses on the task at hand and makes sure that he completes it without a hitch. “
Right from his childhood, Joe was obsessed about the game”- states his proud dad Matt Root, “and he used to roam around the house with a bat, practising his shots as he went by.”
It is that commitment that has landed him this super stardom. The amount of time he used to practice befuddled his teammates and he used to get cross with himself when he plays a false shot. His childhood coach Chris Stewart reminisces that he used to play with one eye closed and still managed to find the sweet spot of his bat – that kind of talent does not come from birth alone, but by dedication towards honing the art itself.
The initial successes:
Joe Root was touted for bigger things even as he debuted for Yorkshire. The elegant right hand batsman had his ambitions set as he demonstrated his capabilities as a run machine right from a tender age. He started to play for his county side at a relatively young age of nineteen and his transition from the second division side to the first division was quick and smooth as he accumulated more than 900 runs on his debut season. His talent was quickly recognized as he was awarded the Cricket writer’s club Young player award soon thereafter.
In the following season, he bettered his own record and scored 1000 runs to emerge as the highest run-getter for his team. His only qualm as a batsman would have been his inability to convert good starts into big scores.
Root is a player whose style mostly reminds of Michael Vaughan. He prefers to wait on the ball, play as late and as close as possible. He is a back-foot player, who plays the pull shot and the square cuts elegantly. But his drives are full of poise and effective nonetheless. He is known more as a grafter. He grinds for his runs as he plays in a completely unorthodox fashion for a youngster. His innovations which include the scoop and the walk-sideways shots have been quite effective as well.
He has a systematic approach to his batting. He checks and rechecks his stance and posture before facing every ball and he would seem bent on perfecting his shot every time the ball meets the bat. His strength is his ability to preserve his wicket as he never succumbs to the temptation of playing a false stroke – an ability that is vital in surviving Test cricket.
The much awaited debut:
His debut was much anticipated after all the initial adulation he received. He joined the English team’s tour to India. It was a crunch series after the defeat at the hands of Pakistan. Making his debut in the final Test, needing a draw or a win to bag the series, Joe Root made a composed 73 from 229 deliveries.
“It was just the confidence he walked out to bat with on his debut Test match in India, two spinners bowling, we’d just lost a wicket or a couple of wickets and he walked out with a smile on his face, and went ‘alright lad, you OK, you’re playing well there’.
“And I was like… mate! I’ve played 90 odd Test matches and I don’t walk out like that. But it’s brilliant for English cricket, absolutely brilliant.” – Kevin Pietersen.
Root was the picture of confidence as he strode out to bat in alien conditions and against hostile spinners. His wicket at that juncture could have led to a collapse but he played diligently, working his way into the middle as he stroked his way to a debut half-century.