Joseph Edward Root
December 30, 1990, Sheffield, Yorkshire
Right hand bat
Right arm offbreak, Legbreak
Top order batter
That Joe Root would one day captain England was taken as read when he hit the grand old age of 23. The accolade everybody anticipated became his three years later, when Alastair Cook stood down after the 2016-17 tour of India. It was understandable that there were a few fears for Root's future workload. He was rare among England batsmen in achieving maturity so quickly, and had looked consumed by the delights of batting from the moment he first took guard. Now he had new responsibilities.
Slight of build, perky of shot and with a scampish grin that got under a bowler's skin, by the time Root was appointed Test captain he had rattled up 53 Tests within five years with an average top side of 50, comfortably the highest among contemporary England players. Early expectations that he would establish himself as an opener did not materialise as an expansive game increasingly seemed better suited to No. 3 or No. 4. He was equally influential in limited-overs cricket where England's commitment to fearless cricket after their 2015 World Cup was much to his tastes, his crispness of stroke and shrewd judgment enabling him to bat purposefully around batsmen of greater weight of shot.
Root had never been a strikingly heavy scorer as he worked through the ranks, nor was he particularly athletic, but his systematic approach was that of a young batsman who would not sell his wicket easily and gave England hope that he would be able to attune his game to the highest level. A slender batsman reliant on precision, his patience and stubbornness at the crease had Geoffrey Boycott gushing that he reminded him of himself, although Root soon developed a much broader range. Others saw some of his mentor Michael Vaughan in Root's front-foot drive - the pair also both attended Sheffield Collegiate.
Root's Test debut for England in Nagpur in 2012 exemplified the qualities which had attracted coaches from an early age. Picked to tour India on the strength of two encouraging seasons with Yorkshire - and having been named Cricket Writers' Club Young Player of the Year - he impressed enough to be selected for the final Test of the series. He began with England's sixth-longest debut innings in terms of balls faced, scoring 73 from 229 balls as he displayed the patience and discrimination demanded both by the situation of the game and a desperately slow surface.
His rise continued with a maiden Test hundred in his home ground, Headingley, against New Zealand in 2013 followed by a maiden Ashes century at Lord's having been promoted to open. Root looked set to occupy that role for many years to come, but his fortunes dipped as the series went on and then crashed along with the team as England were whitewashed in Australia in 2013-14. He began the tour at No. 6, moved up to No. 3 after the enforced departure of Jonathan Trott, then saw his Ashes ended early when he was dropped for the fifth Test in Sydney.
Proof of Root's ability came in the way he responded. Back in England, he followed up a two-tone double hundred against Sri Lanka at Lord's - a disciplined innings with a freewheeling finale - with two more big hundreds against India. All three had the not-out asterisk. That seemed to say a lot about him.
He even had the fortune to skipper Yorkshire to the Championship title at Trent Bridge in 2014 when Andrew Gale was suspended, less than a fortnight after he became the first Yorkshire batsman to hit an ODI hundred at Headingley, with India the victims. He was also in charge for Yorkshire's thumping defeat at Middlesex, in which they chased down 472 in the fourth innings. To his amusement, his team-mates dubbed him "Craptain".
His full potential then poured forth in 2015 when he made 1385 Test runs in the year, and vied with Australia's Steven Smith at the top of the ICC Test rankings. Root played with alacrity on all surfaces and in all formats and his obvious delight in his art was a positive symbol in an England side committed in all formats to a more enterprising approach. Jaunty Ashes hundreds at Cardiff and Nottingham helped England to victories, his consistency at No. 4 repeatedly masked top-order frailties, and a mischievous sense of humour made his success all the more pleasurable.
As England fell to defeat against Pakistan in the UAE in late 2015, a pattern began to build up which piqued Root even as he confirmed himself as one of the best batsmen around: his world became rather too full of entertaining 70s and 80s when he felt that a big hundred was there for the taking. Between his hundred in Johannesburg in early 2016 on a triumphant England tour and a century in Rajkot as England slumped 4-0 to India, he passed 50 six times but only converted one into a hundred. There again, it was quite a hundred: a career-best 254 against Pakistan at Old Trafford that banished talk of premature burnout in a non-stop England programme.
Firmly established among the modern game's "Big Four" batsmen (Root, Smith, Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson), these were years of easy scoring. In 2015 and 2016 he set consecutive records for runs accumulated across all formats in a calendar year for England, with 2228 and 2570 respectively; in 2017, he came within five runs of surpassing Vaughan's calendar high-water mark of 1481 for England in Tests, which had stood since 2002. The following summer, with back-to-back efforts against India, Root surpassed Marcus Trescothick's English record of 12 ODI hundreds.
Problems of conversion returned to afflict him in his second year as Test captain, however. Having made a matchwinning 190 against South Africa at Lord's, in his first match in charge, and a century in England's first day-night Test, against West Indies at Edgbaston, he went more than a year before again reaching three figures in a Test. That period included another unsuccessful Ashes tour of Australia, where Root topped the England averages but could only manage a highest score of 83. Defeat in New Zealand followed, then a messy draw at home to Pakistan, before England rallied to beat No. 1 side India 4-1 and give Root encouragement in his plans to rebuild the Test side.
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