@Yas_Wisden 3 minute read
This week marks 10 years since Joe Root’s England debut.
His potential was obvious from the start; the cherubic Yorkshireman batted doggedly for nearly five hours to score 73, a knock that proved critical for England as they held out for a draw to seal a famous series win on Indian soil.
A decade and 44 international hundreds later, Root is firmly in the conversation surrounding the identity of England’s greatest ever batter. What has made his batting achievements all the more remarkable is the general state of English batting around him through his career.
On the whole, Root’s career has not coincided with a period of overwhelming success for the England Test side. While there has been the odd moment to savour, England have never seriously threatened to stake a serious claim for the title of the best side in the world unlike their ODI counterparts to whom Root has also been central. In particular, their batting line up has been in a perpetual state of flux, with only a handful of top seven spots nailed down at any point during Root’s period in the Test side.
So, how much better has Root been compared to his peers since he made his debut in December 2012?
For starters, the only other English batter to average more than 40 in Test cricket since Root’s Nagpur debut has since received a knighthood. Even though Sir Alastair Cook’s numbers tailed off towards the end of his career, he still averaged marginally above 40 from the point of Root’s Test bow to his own international retirement six or so years later. Root, who averages a couple of decimal points below 50, is by some distance ahead of the pack.
Since he came into the side, Ben Stokes is the only Engishman to debut in Test cricket and score more than five Test hundreds. Second on that list is another all-rounder, Moeen Ali, with five. It says something about the bareness of England’s batting cupboard over the last decade that the specialist batter with the most Test hundreds to debut for England since Root came into the side is Gary Ballance, who is set to make his international comeback next year for another country.
Root (10,629) has nearly double the number of Test runs than any other Englishman since his international debut (next best Ben Stokes is on 5,541). Root has also has 28 Test hundreds to his name, 16 clear of the second place for England in that period.
Of those to have played 10 or more Tests for England since December 2012, only seven have averaged more than 35 with the bat. And of those seven, two – Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott – both played their last Tests as long ago as 2015.
The ‘average’ batting average for an England top seven batter across Root’s career – excluding Root himself – is 32.41. Root’s own figure of 49.66 is 53.12 per cent higher than his teammates in the top seven. For a decade, he’s been operating at a different level altogether to his England teammates.
He’s achieved this while carrying the burden not only of being the side’s most important batter but also, for much of the last ten years, as its captain. More than half of his Tests have come as captain; he holds the record for both the most games as England Test skipper and also most wins while captaining England.
Globally, Root is by some distance (2,472 runs) the highest scorer in the Test game since his debut, although he has played considerably more Tests than his counterparts in that time. Compared to the other members of the ‘Fab Four’, Root’s average is the lowest with Steve Smith leading the pack on 63.23, closely followed by Kane Williamson on 58.52. Virat Kohli averages 51.31 since Root’s debut. That said, runs have been scored at a much higher volume in Australia and New Zealand compared to England, and to some degree India, in that period. The mean top seven average in England has been 33.36, compared to 39.21 in Australia and 38.48 in New Zealand. In India, the average top seven average stands at 34.88.
Root has towered above his England teammates for the majority of his career, scaling heights that few Englishmen have ever reached while internationally, his record compares well against the very best of his era. An undisputed England great who at 31, should still have plenty left to give remaining in the tank
The latest Wisden Cricket Monthly celebrates a decade of Joe Root as an England player with an exclusive interview with the man himself. Order the magazine here.