Why does Joe Root always seem to work it out and no-one else does?

Posted by
4 minute read

The vast majority of the time since he made his debut in 2012, England’s batting has been Joe Root and a revolving cast of team-mates who seem to have it in them to play a decent innings, but most likely won’t.

In the recent five-Test series in India, only one England batter managed both a hundred and a fifty. Joe Root was also the only one to finish in better form than he started. While the Yorkshireman’s overall series return was underwhelming, this still felt representative of his wider career.

As early as 2015, we wrote that Root had reached a level where he was just context. It was so unremarkable that he would top-score, the most newsworthy aspect of an England innings tended to be who had been next most productive.

Root hundreds weren’t really worth talking about and by 2021, even his doubles were getting overlooked.

Root v Everyone Else

Everyone knows that Root is one of the best English batters there’s ever been, but it’s still worth taking stock of just how much weight he’s carried throughout his career.

It’s quite a lot. We’ll be needing something more substantial than one of those luggage scales where you hang your bag from a hook to measure this.

Most runs for England since Joe Root’s debut

  • Joe Root – 11,736
  • Ben Stokes – 6,316
  • Jonny Bairstow – 5,846
  • Alastair Cook – 5,369
  • Moeen Ali – 3,094

It’s no colossal surprise to see that Joe Root has scored the most Test runs for England in the exact span of Joe Root’s Test career – but the scale of his superiority is worth highlighting.

Only one other batter has scored even half as many runs and Stokes, Bairstow, Cook and Moeen are the only ones to have contributed even a quarter of his tally in this time.

Averages? Root averages 49.72 – basically 50, which we surely all accept is extremely good for any Test player, in any team, in any era.

Only three other England batters have averaged 40 in the matches played since his debut: Cook averaged 40.36 in that time; Ben Duckett has averaged 40.66; and Harry Brook is currently outdoing him at 62.15.

Brook has played 12 matches. Root has maintained his level of performance over 140.

More representivative of the era is the fact that the next best effort after these three is Gary Ballance’s 37.45 (in England matches). If you’re wondering how Bairstow’s made it to 100 Tests, he’s next on the list at 36.53.

This has not been a rich period for England batting. And Root has averaged pretty much 50.

A player and a half

Just one more stat: England have managed 118 hundreds in this time and Root has delivered 31 of them. In the company of team-mates who have rarely pulled their weight, he has pulled his own and then some.

How has so little of his competence and adaptability rubbed off on people?

The contrast makes us think of Idiocracy, where US Military librarian Joe Bauers wakes up 500 years in the future, in a world where natural selection has rewarded those who reproduced the most and the intelligent have become an endangered species.

In a society where people are watering crops with energy drink, on the basis that, “it’s got what plants crave – it’s got electrolytes,” Joe is so massively more intelligent than anyone else, he has to consciously dumb-down his speech if he wants to explain anything to anyone.

That’s perhaps a little severe. Root’s superiority is not so pronounced that we’re in Andy Flower/Shivnarine Chanderpaul territory where it feels like a club team has secured the services of their greatest ever pro. There’s a proper gap though, all the same. Root has just had a pretty poor series, yet he was still England’s best batter by several measures.

Root’s brilliance is that where others flicker, he is never dim for long. He is currently enduring his worst year since 2014 and is averaging 35.55 – a level of form that is apparently worth about 100 Tests these days. Even in that annus horribilis, he averaged 34.48.

In short, Root’s worst year ever is plenty good enough to keep him in the side.

England are forever on the lookout for ‘the next generation of batting talent’. It’s worth remembering that measured against Root, they never really had a current one.

While you’re here…

If you take a look at our Essentials Calendar, you’ll see there’s a bit of a gap looming. That means now’s actually a really good time to sign up for that email of ours. We’ll still be writing about cricket a few times a week, so let us fill the void.

And if you’re already signed up for that, please take another look at our Patreon campaign. You may or may not have noticed that we’ve been running the site without ads for the last week or so. We’d quite like to stick with that, but man, it sure would be good if we could attract a couple more backers to offset the cost. Cheers.


Mike Gatting wasn't receiving the King Cricket email when he dropped that ludicrously easy chance against India in 1993.


Why risk it when it's so easy to sign up?


  1. It’s a rare day when I’m out-depressed by someone else.

    But, on this occasion, I’m big enough and man enough to nod my head sullenly and walk away without making a scene.

    Chapeau, KC, chapeau.

  2. As Daisy would no doubt tell you, when we first saw Joe Root bat, many years ago, I told her that I thought there was something very special about him.

    I couldn’t explain it in technical terms, other than the feeling that he appears to have more time than other batsmen, even very good ones.

    The only English batsman I have seen in living memory who gives me that same feeling is Harry Brook. That doesn’t guarantee that Brook will turn out to be an all-time great, but I do believe that potential is there.

    Root + Brook + The Baz-Ball Biffers should help England to win many test matches in most conditions. In India against India is a challenge too far for all-but the very greatest teams ever. England is a good test side at the moment but not one of the very greatest teams ever.

    Take that depression, squeeze it into the smallest metaphorical ball your clenched wrists can manage and toss it into the metaphorical bin.

  3. Great article, KC. Root’s low-key manner, control and mastery of his game reminds me of the TT racer Ian Hutchinson. Might be the voice as well.

Comments are closed.