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From a debut in Nagpur to a masterclass at Trent Bridge: The journey of Joe Root

A look at how Joe Root has become the best batsman in the world,

Root in action during the fourth Ashes Test

The historic triumph of England over India back in 2012 was certainly the visitors’ best performance in subcontinent conditions. The English side stole the show in style, beating the Indians in their own backyard. The memory shelf has a lot in stock, but Joe Root was the best thing that happened to cricket in that very series.

The then 22-year-old boy outplayed the Indian spinners on a turning track and announced his arrival at the biggest stage. His debut knock (73r, 229b, 4*4s) at Nagpur was a glimpse of the character that he had developed at his county team.  

The Yorkshire batsman has already amassed a lot of credits against his name in a brief period of two and a half years. In these years, he has already won two urn wars against the mighty Australians. Root is probably the most valuable player in both the home Ashes triumphs of England in the span of two years.

The biggest feather in Root’s cap came at Trent Bridge when his ton killed Australia’s hopes of making a comeback and saving the urn. His magnificent hundred against some deadly fast bowlers ensured the hosts’ dominant victory by an innings – their 100th time doing so – thus regaining the Ashes. As soon as Mark Wood displaced Nathan Lyon’s stumps, Root was already the No. 1 Test batsman in the ICC rankings.

After getting a flying start in India, Root hadn’t much to celebrate in his first outing against New Zealand. But the stylish right-hander made up for it in the very next series, making a superb ton at Leeds against the Kiwis. He became the first Yorkshire batsman to get a maiden ton at his home ground.

The ‘Root’ effect was already in evidence as the youngster bagged his first Man of the Series award in just his third Test series. Things got better and better as the Yorkshire sensation was promoted to the top order in the 2013 Ashes.

Root found his name on the Lord’s honours board for his amazing 180-run knock in the second innings, and he also grabbed his maiden Ashes Man of the Match award. He was effective with the ball as well. Meanwhile, England won the Ashes and Root was certainly showing signs of a man with a great future.

Root has had his share of tough times

The fairy tale start to the career couldn’t last for long as England’s 2013 Australian summer was a tough one for Root. In addition to Mitchell Johnson’s fierce bowling, Jonathan Trott’s exit was a major setback for England. Root was assigned the task to cover up for Trott, but the youngster was unable to tackle the Australians who were at their best.

Even Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen couldn’t hold the ship and England were thrashed in a merciless manner. This was the first time I saw the young man struggling, especially against speed. Root loves the back foot punch, but the Australian seamers never allowed him to get settled at the No. 3 position and play his game. Finally, in the fifth Test, he was dropped for the first time since his debut. 

This was a critical period for England as Pietersen, Graeme Swann and Trott were left behind, and the team couldn’t handle this amount of loss. It was now up to captain Cook to inspire the youngsters and move forward. Root was probably the first one who would have come to his mind.

Resurrection and redemption: Root’s best time arrives

The year 2014 was a golden one for Root. He started the Test season with a magnificent 200* against Sri Lanka at the ‘Home of cricket’, Lord’s. He played a well-composed innings filled with a number of elegant flicks. Aggression and patience were the highlights of the knock. The good thing about Root is that the bowlers can’t trap him easily. He respects good bowlers and good deliveries.

However, England couldn’t enjoy much success as they were handed another series loss. Sri Lanka outplayed them in the second Test and their poor run continued. But amid all of this, Root was probably the one bright spot in the line-up who seemed likely to deliver in the upcoming India series. And he did exactly that.

Root’s brilliant 154* and record partnership of 198 with No. 11 batsman James Anderson were the highlights of the drawn Test at Trent Bridge. It was again a similar story of English batsmen fumbling and Root rescuing them in company of the lower order.

After losing the Lord’s Test, the English team finally got back on track while Root continued to impress with his sensational run. He finished the last Test of 2014 with a brilliant 149* against India, leading England to a much needed 3-1 victory.

In 2014, Root made 777 runs in 7 tests with a mind-boggling average of 97.12, including 3 big tons.

Hard work always pays off, and Root was declared the “Wisden Cricketer of the Yearin 2014.

2015: The great run continues

It’s pretty unfortunate that Root couldn’t deliver much in the 2015 World Cup, and that can partly be attributed to the lack of support from his team-mates. England have been suffering in ODIs for the past one year. Although Root’s ODI stats are improving, he needs to be consistent. He has the ability to adjust the pace of the innings in any given situation. He can slog the balls over the fence quite handsomely. 

In Test cricket, Root continued the momentum from the point where he had left 2014. The first Caribbean outing was a sensational one for the right-hander. His Man of the Match-winning 182* swung the game back into England’s favour. He was already in the list of the top 10 Test batsmen in the world by then. The stars were aligned in Root’s favour as he received England’s Player of the Yearaward and was then appointed as the vice-captain.

At the age of 24, Root was already a star batsman of the England team. Getting a lot of confidence from Andrew Strauss, Root didn’t disappoint the English cricket board and celebrated the honour with a superb 134 in the opening game of the 2015 Ashes. His impact on this emerging English side can’t be described in words.

England regained the Ashes in style at Trent Bridge a few days back, and the man of the moment was again a childish, simple but elegant Joe Root. He has displaced Steven Smith from the No. 1 position and now sits on the ICC rankings throne comfortably. He is ahead of every single world class batsman in cricket right now, including AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla, Virat Kohli and Kumara Sangakkara.

Root’s basic strategy is quite simple – attack. His recent stints against Australia show a drastic surge in his strike rates where he has faced MItchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc with grit and confidence. He has been doing this comfortably since last year’s Pataudi Trophy against India. He is a good player of spin, swing and seam. A complete middle order package, Root is a player of the big league, converting 50s to 100s regularly and then making them bigger and bigger. 

In 2015 Root has scored 984 runs in 9 Tests with healthy average of 70.28 with 3 tons.

This story seems like a perfect start for any batsman at the international stage. But a start like this doesn’t come easy; continuous efforts are required to be consistent at the highest level. On each occasion when England have fallen, Root has been there to bring them back up. He did his homework with Peter Moores to sharpen his skills. And a class batsman never forgets to give due credits to his coach.

“Brilliant Coach Peter Moores got the best out of me”- Joe Root.

With one more Test to go, England and Root will be looking to send off the Australians with just one victory in this Ashes. Root accepts that the misery of the 2013 Ashes was painful and it motivated him to give it back to the Aussies. The ODI series will be exciting as well, especially after England’s revival in the format against New Zealand. Root was the man with two centuries and he will be looking to continue this form of his life.

These are moments about which every player dreams. Rankings are not the only parameter to assess a player’s dedication to his team, and Root knows that. Certainly, he is the future of cricket. I hope he will get better with time and will continue to produce mesmerizing knocks.

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