There is Something about Joe Root
I vividly remember the first time I saw Joe Root bat. It was in the Nagpur Test of England’s 2012 tour to India, probably one of the most boring cricket matches of all time. On a dead wicket, Root scored 71, and it was not pretty to watch, not pretty at all.
Those runs were laborious. It was not attractive, his batting, but there was something about him that made me want to watch him go about his business, made me want to watch him bat. I did not enjoy his style of batting then and nor do I enjoy it much now, but, somehow I have fallen in love with the way he plays the game. I have fallen in love with his attitude, with his cheekiness, with his confidence, with his ever apparent smile. During this time of distress in English cricket, Root stands out, head and shoulders above the rest. Therefore, it is no surprise that he won the England Player of The Year Award this season.
There is something different about Joe Root, something which makes you believe in him. Perhaps the fact that he believes in himself. He carries himself like that, unaffected, unfazed by what is unfolding around him. He has been a victim of England’s unsettled test team in the initial stages of his career.
In his first 15 Test matches, Root was made to bat in 6 different positions. He played well on occasions, but that consistency was never there. 955 runs in 29 innings with an average of 36.73 stands testimony to this fact. But he never complained.
When his position was seemingly fixed at No. 6 before the 2013-14 Ashes in Australia, Jonathan Trott returned home due to his own mental health issues. England needed a new No.3. Who else could they look to but Root, the ultimate team man. It must have been a very unsettling and tough initiation for Root, even though he did not complain. He always did what the team wanted him to. Root just makes everyone believe in him. He exemplifies responsibility. England threw him into the deep, on multiple occasions, and he never drowned.
It was only during the summer of 2014 that Root finally got a fixed position in the batting order. He was England’s new No.5. Since then Root has been exceptional, scoring 1233 runs in 17 innings, with four centuries and six half-centuries at a Bradmanesque average of 94.84.
Many feel that this turnaround from his earlier inconsistent form happened due to a fixed position in the batting order, I disagree, slightly. I feel the seeds for such a remarkable turnaround were sown when in Adelaide, during the 2nd Test of the Ashes, he scored a gritty 87, batting beautifully against an attack comprising the in-form Mitchell Johnson, the ever reliable Ryan Harris, the miserly Peter Siddle as well as offie Nathan Lyon. This inning was the making of Root.
The way handled himself, the way he handled the relentless attack from the Australian players as well as the spectators, the way he handled the world class bowling, the way he handled the situation showed that he had arrived. Big time. His determination had overcome all challenges. It was his moment of victory. His self-belief had prevailed. He was now sure he belonged.
Root is not a very elegant player, not very watchable, he is a grafter, he is not a player who plays to the gallery, he never will be. He will never be able to excite an audience like the way an AB De Villiers or a Virender Sehwag would. But there is something in him that makes me want to watch him bat as much as them. Root seems very different, almost another breed.
For me, more than his game I have fallen in love with the way he goes about approaching his game. His ever smiling face, his happy-go-lucky attitude, his mental strength, his self-belief, his selflessness, his hard working nature, his grit, his determination, his passion for his job, his ability to face challenges head on, his personality, is something which I desire.
He is the kind of person I want to be. His personality is my fantasy. And I am very sure that it is many other people’s fantasy as well. This is why he is one of my favourite players, not for his cricket but for his attitude. This is what makes him different. This is what makes him special. This is what Joe Root means to me. This is what Joe Root means to many others like me.