Root’s clock is ticking and if he has to keep his position intact, there should be more conversions, and more centuries to show.
Test Matches have a history of over 142 years, with the first match played between England and Australia in 1877. Since then, the game has seen innumerable stars and God knows Joe Root will go down as one of the finest of ’em all. But there’s a problem. A problem Joe Root, amongst all of us, wants to overcome the most.
It’s his poor conversion rate in the longest format of the game. It started with a glitch, missing a few chances to score a hundred, but from that to now, it has become more of a familiar sight.
Root’s career started properly, average, if you go by cricketing terms. He started peaking at the right time, just as the genius in Kevin Petersen was slowly waning. England needed a middle order specialist, and Joe Root proved to be just the man.
Then came the ‘Fab Four’ nomenclature. Joe Root was placed besides Virat Kohli, Kane Williamson, and Steve Smith, their career being on the rise. Martin Crowe wrote in 2014, “All four have similar talent, hunger, ambition and responsibility. All four will go on to captain their countries. All four will reach peak form in a few years’ time, and then the real battle will commence as to who will be the No. 1 batsman in the world.”
The late New Zealand batsman and former captain’s words came to be true as in less than two years, all the three except Joe Root were made captain of their national Test Sides. Joe Root got it in 2017, when England’s all time great Alastair Cook resigned from captaincy following criticism for series loss against India in India.
This is where the problem began to settle in. Although his captaincy record is just fine, it’s his personal performance that has been affected. Before being made the captain of the England test side, Root scored at 52.80 in 53 tests. Brilliant by any standards. But after that, in the 39 matches he played captain, he’s scoring at 42.84 (thanks to his 226 at the Seddon Park last December), a stunning difference of 10 runs per match. Virat, under his own captaincy, scores at more than 63 runs per match. Smith, before the Sandpaper Gate, scored at 70. Williamson, under the same observation, is going at around 55.
The conversion rate problem has stuck with Joe Root for a long time but the problem, like cancer, has only increased in his captaincy. In the concerned period, on the 26 occasions he went past 50 runs, only 6 times (conversion rate of ~23%) has he converted those into three figures.
When you took a look at his partners in the ‘Fab Four’, Steve Smith is leading the way with Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson following closely. In conversion rate, Virat (55%) is right up there just behind The Don and George Headley, with Smith (47.27%) in close proximity. Williamson (40.38%) is somewhat behind in this matter but in any comparison, way ahead than his English counterpart. Root’s overall conversion rate of 26.9% is among the worst in modern day cricket. Joe Root is falling behind. There is no sugar coating to this fact. And there shouldn’t be any.
What makes a player great is his ability to win matches. For a batsman, the most one can do is to make his bat talk. You look at Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, Jacques Kallis, and you see that centuries win you matches. 50s and 60s are good, but when you are one of the finest batsman of an era, you don’t stop on these petty scores, you make them count.
No one seems to have figured out what the problem is with Joe Root. Some cricket pundits link it with captaincy, which Root has vehemently denied over the course of time. Many have even gone on to give suggestions for the next test captain. In any case, Root’s clock is ticking and if he has to keep his position intact, there should be more conversions, and more centuries to show.