Batsman Joe Root is currently at a cross-roads in his international career and something has to give for the greater good…
Why Joe Root doesn’t need to play T20 cricket
Joe Root, the blessed
Sometimes sportsmen come around who seem to have it all. The brilliance, the work ethic, the good looks, the money, the sponsors, the army of fans, the ideal build for their chosen sports and the perfect attitude for each and every situation. Roger Federer is one such example and despite a somewhat lean run of form over the past couple of years, Rory McIlroy is another.
And up until a few months ago, so was Joe Root. Not that an England cricketer will ever attract the same attention as those two- not even the far more flamboyant Kevin Pietersen reached those levels – but he was cut from the same cloth.
Boyish good looks, a naturally relaxed attitude, just about the only player to feature in all three formats, articulate in interviews, remarkable talent with the bat, holder of the England Test captaincy.
Joe Root under pressure
But a year is a long time in sport, especially English cricket. A shock defeat at Headingley on his watch (as captain) in the 2nd Test against the unfancied West Indies featuring an alarmingly easy run chase of a seemingly impossible total of 322 denied England what should have been a straightforward 3-0 win.
Worse was to come. A 4-0 hammering in the Ashes could have been even more horrendous had the pitch at Melbourne not been so good that a result was virtually impossible from the word go. Perhaps even worse still (or perhaps better, depending on your perspective) he wasn’t even awake when the final blows were delivered in the Ashes humiliation: he was asleep in the dressing room after suffering from exhaustion and dehydration in that last Sydney Test and with no hope of saving the Test, no one bothered to wake him up to bat at 11.
It’s one thing getting hammered by the pre-ball tampering Aussies but to lose a series in New Zealand is less excusable. They’re meant to be tough to beat but they’re not meant to actually beat you in the longest format. They did, although England did admittedly come close to winning the Second Test to square the Series.
There was some respite with some good contributions in the ODI Series win (4-1) over Australia in between those two Test series and an excellent century in the 3-2 ODI series win over New Zealand. That was followed by a lean spell against Australia in the ODIs earlier in the summer as England won 5-0: five England batsmen passed 150 runs for the Series, three of them (Roy/Bairstow/Buttler) passed 275 runs; Joe Root scored just 104.
And then the final insult: having been asked to bat at 7 in the 3rd ODI against Australia as England decided everyone else could score quicker than him on a belter of a pitch, he was then dropped altogether for the crucial 3rd T20 against India. But champion player that he is, he hit back with a century to level the ongoing ODI Series. So in the middle of all of these fluctuations in the fortunes of England and his own: what’s the solution?
How to solve a problem called Joe Root
Too much is made over whether he should bat at 3 or 4. It doesn’t make a huge difference. It may come down to who else could bat at 3 or 4 with Root being good enough to adapt to that to give the more inexperienced the chance to feel comfortable.
But if things didn’t improve over the next two years, he may have to give up the captaincy if it means he’s a better batsman over different formats for it. If the likes of Sachin Tendulkar or Brian Lara never took to the Test captaincy, then it’s certainly no disgrace if Joe Root doesn’t, either.
That demotion to 7 may be a sign of things to come. But there’s not too much wrong with an approach where he’s chalked in to come in at 3 or 4 and pushed down a place or two if the circumstances justify it.
Either way, he’s an integral part of the ODI set-up. It’s a team made up of big-hitters, six-hitters. All the way down to 9. The exceptions are Root and Eoin Morgan, who can hit big if needed but whose natural game is to rotate the strike, run well, find the gaps and punish the bad balls.
Not every game will be one where you need to score 320+. Sometimes 50 off 75 balls is enough if the wicket is tricky. Look no further than that ill-fated semi-final against Pakistan last summer in the Champions Trophy. England went at it too hard and posted a sub-par score. Another 50 more ground-out runs could have made all the difference.
I really don’t understand this idea that you’re almost letting your country down by deciding not to play T20Is. Steve Smith, who isn’t even particularly good at T20 cricket, should have opted out long before the ball-tampering business. Going back 15-20 years, Michael Atherton practically only ever played Tests. Michael Bevan, one of the greatest ODI batsmen the game has seen, played just 18 Tests yet racked up 232 ODI games. So why are today’s players expected to play not just two, but three formats?
Root should just pack it in as far as playing T20s for England. Rather than worry about where he should bat or whether he’s going to be picked, he should just say ‘don’t consider me.’
He should use the time off while England are playing T20s to rest or play County cricket. There’s nothing wrong with play Championship cricket in tricky conditions. Get some time at the crease in the 50-over format. Play T20 for Yorkshire, no harm in that. Bit of fun.
But the pressure of feeling like he needs to improve his T20 game to play for England leads to silly thoughts entering his head: like playing IPL or other T20 leagues. Because of course that’s all he and England need: almost two months of constant flights, hotel rooms, media attention and high-intensity games.
Two formats and the burden of the Test captaincy is more than enough.
England v Australia 3rd ODI Betting
England play the deciding ODI against India tomorrow. Root is 3/1 with Betfair Sportsbook to follow up his effort from Saturday and be top batsman. The value is probably Jos Buttler at 8/1 but you’re always facing the risk of him not being around long enough given he might bat as low as 6. But given Ben Stokes’ poor form, the Management could swap them around and that price on Buttler would be more than fair if he came in at 5.
But this could be one of those occasions where the best bet is staring at you in the face all along. Johnny Bairstow is 11/4 favourite but is batting beautifully, opens and has the temperament for the big occasion.
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