Sheffield's Joe Root can now cement his place as England's Test greatest after landing prestigious Wisden award
and live on Freeview channel 276
The 31-year-old announced his decision to step down as Test skipper on Friday after five years in the top job, and was named as Wisden’s leading cricketer in the world less than a week later.
Root becomes the third Englishman to be bestowed the honour since it was introduced in 2003, and surely the most worthy. A haul of 1,708 runs in the year was only 80 short of the all-time record in Test cricket and made all the more impressive that he had virtually nothing else around him.
It became something of a running joke inside the game that Root was routinely at the wicket at 20 for two and to perform so admirably with the bat, with the pressures of captaincy and a faltering batting line-up around him, speaks volumes about Root’s character as much as his capability.
In 2021, Root scored more than three times as many runs as the next highest scorer – Rory Burns, with 530. He averaged 61 when only one other averaged 30, and that was Dawid Malan from just five games. All this in a struggling team that lost nine of its 15 Tests.
Always England’s best player of spin, Root took things to another level in 2021 with a double hundred against Sri Lanka in Galle – scoring 228 and his 10 teammates mustering 180 between them - and 186 a week later. Then came 218 against India, in Chennai, and three tons in three consecutive Tests against the same opposition in England later that summer.
“Root rose above the struggles of England’s Test side to produce one of the all-time great performances in a calendar year,” said Lawrence Booth, the editor of Wisden.
“His 1,708 runs have been beaten only by Mohammad Yousuf in 2006 and Viv Richards in 1976, and included six hundreds. And he scored his runs in his fifth year as England captain, at which point many of his predecessors had already called it a day.”
The nagging frustration at not really hitting the same heights in Australia – his average Down Under of just over 35 paling into comparison compared to all the other major nations – will remain. But in an era of sports science, when batsman can theoretically go on for longer than they ever really have, there will hopefully be chance for Root to write that particular anomaly on his way to becoming undoubtedly the greatest man to have ever wielded a bat in Test matches for England.
Alastair Cook’s record of 12,472 is surely under threat from Root, who has 9,889 from 44 fewer Tests. Unburdened by the stress of captaincy - probably exaggerated by the coronavirus pandemic, the use of so-called ‘bubbles’ and a faltering team around him – Root can focus on what he does best – shouldering the burden and leading by example, if not as skipper.
Christened previously as the born boy with a bat in his hands, Root’s thirst to score runs has been unquenchable since he took his first steps in the game at Sheffield Collegiate’s Abbeydale ground. He will not want to stop now, with an ever-decreasing number of records to beat and players to overtake – until he stands alone as the undisputed greatest English batsman of all time.
Made in Sheffield.