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Fitness, technique helps Root get back among 'Big Four' batsmen

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Chennai, Feb 5 (IANS) Joe Root’s 128 not out on the first day of the first Test aganst India — his third ton in three matches — pushed not just his Test average beyond 50, like Virat Kohli, Steve Smith, and Kane Williamson, but also reopened the debate of who is the best among the ‘Big Four’ batsmen in world cricket.

Root, 30, who hit 228 and 186 in the two Tests in Sri Lanka prior to Friday’s knock, had an ordinary last year in which he scored just four half-centuries in 13 Test innings. At the moment his average is 50.16.

Root, who had earlier said that Kohli, Smith, and Williamsonabove are above him, has come roaring back and is looking to regain his place among the ‘Big Four’.

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“I feel I am in good form. I feel I need to cash in on it. Over the course of my career, I have not always gone on and made big scores. For me to be going and doing that currently is very pleasing and the challenge of putting myself in position of keep making hundreds which I have to keep taking,” said Root after the first day’s play.

The England skipper has credited his fitness and work on technique for improvement in his batting.

“I worked on a few technical things. Looked at a few areas of my game. Looked at certain trends of how I was getting out in certain times of the innings. Tried to improve things and evolve as a player. And at the minute, it seems to be working nicely and then the challenge is to get better every time,” said the 30-year-old England captain after scoring his 20th hundred.

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The Yorkshireman added that he has worked on fitness — strengthening legs and back.

“I can assure you this isn’t a plug but I invested in the peloton [online workout streaming platform] and been doing a lot of work on that. I have also been trying to follow the programme that Phil Scott [England’s strength and conditioning coach] puts us for us. Made my back a little bit more manageable. And also try and make my legs and backside a little bit stronger. So, a combination of those things has had an impact on my game. Also, I am improving my skill as a player,” said Root.

“It has been a number of things I have had to improve. Mental side, physically. It is really important that with the amount of cricket we play we are physically in the best shape. To be able to perform at our absolute best,” he added.

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Considered below the other three stalwarts, his record suggests that he is way better than at least Williamson whose average against the top teams in Test cricket — Australia, England, India and South Africa — is below 50. Williamson, though, is acknowledged for technical skills.

Root raises his game against Asian sides, especially India, against whom his average is 61.96 in his 17th Test. Against Pakistan his average is 56.11 and against Sri Lanka it is 58.88.

In fact, the only countries against which he averages below 50 are arch-rivals Australia (40.33 in 24 Tests), Ireland (16.5 in 1 Test), and Bangladesh (24.5 in 2 Tests).

Smith and Kohli have performed consistently against every team — the Australian’s average though falls to around 41 against South Africa and Sri Lanka and dips to 29.75 against Bangladesh (2 Tests).

Kohli has a 50-plus average against each team but is just a shade below 50 against England and Australia.

Pakistan’s Babar Azam is also considered among the best batsmen of this era, but his failure to make big, consistent scores is keeping him behind the pack of four. The Pakistani is just 26, much younger than the other three, and promises to attain great heights.

–IANS

kh/qma

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