Born leader

Root set to join fan­tas­tic four

The Cricket Paper - - FRONT PAGE - By Chris Stocks

WHEN­EVER Joe Root takes over the Eng­land Test cap­taincy he will draw another par­al­lel with the three other bats­men whom he has seem­ingly been des­tined to track through­out his im­pres­sive ca­reer – Vi­rat Kohli, Steve Smith and Kane Wil­liamson.

All three cur­rently lead In­dia, Aus­tralia and New Zealand re­spec­tively.

With Root, they are the out­stand­ing bats­men of their gen­er­a­tion and look des­tined to dom­i­nate across all for­mats for years to come.

Root, at 25, is the youngest of the four, Kohli the old­est at 28. But all four were born within 25 months of each other.

Kohli, Smith and Wil­liamson have seen a jump, too, in their per­for­mances in Test cricket since be­ing handed the cap­taincy.

Could Root, who made his de­but in the fi­nal Test of Eng­land’s last se­ries in In­dia at Nagpur four years ago, re­peat that suc­cess from his al­ready rar­efied level of per­for­mance?

Alas­tair Cook, Eng­land’s Test cap­tain who stated this week his deputy is “ready” for the job, says: “You just never know. I think a lot of play­ers have a bit of a spurt when they first take over the cap­taincy and it lev­els out af­ter a cou­ple of years when you prob­a­bly find your gen­uine level.

“I was asked a very di­rect ques­tion a cou­ple of days ago about it. But the mo­ment he got off the plane in In­dia in 2012 as a very young-look­ing Joe Root you knew he was ready for in­ter­na­tional cricket. Ev­ery chal­lenge that’s been thrown at him he’s han­dled. So I don’t think any­thing over the next few years will faze him.

“Joe’s record is fan­tas­tic, he’s a fan­tas­tic player and we’re lucky he’s English and part of this side.”

Kohli, asked the same ques­tion, said: “It de­pends on the in­di­vid­ual to be hon­est. Joe is an out­stand­ing player, I have been very fond of his game and the way he plays.

“He is very pos­i­tive. He al­ways thinks of any sit­u­a­tion as an op­por­tu­nity. I don’t know what cap­taincy will do to that. Cap­taincy is not just about the ten guys on the field or hav­ing a squad and in­ter­act­ing with the man­age­ment. It comes with a whole pack­age of in­ter­act­ing with the me­dia, hav­ing peo­ple ex­pect

things out of you in a dif­fer­ent way, hav­ing the onus of the coun­try on your shoul­ders.

“Joe looks like he has the tem­per­a­ment to do it but you can only tell when he ac­tu­ally gets into the scheme of things how he will re­act. Only he can an­swer that ques­tion. But from what I have seen in how he con­ducts him­self on the field, he has been a great bats­man for Eng­land and I think he is equipped enough to han­dle that job as well.”

A year ago, Kohli could not be grouped along­side Root, Smith and Wil­liamson in Test crick­et­ing terms as his record was just not com­pa­ra­ble.

How­ever, a stel­lar 2016, in which he has scored three dou­ble hun­dreds and av­er­ages 80, has most def­i­nitely put him on his three ri­vals’ level.

Kohli is now sec­ond in the ICC rank­ings be­hind Smith, with Root and Wil­liamson third and fourth re­spec­tively.

Kohli’s 235 in the fourth Test in Mum­bai took his ca­reer aver­age past 50 for the first time. At 50.53, it is be­hind Smith (58.94) and Root (52.94) but frac­tion­ally ahead of Wil­liamson (49.44).

In terms of Test hun­dreds Root, on 11, trails Smith (16), Kohli (15) and Wil­liamson (14). The York­shire­man’s knack of fail­ing to con­vert half-cen­turies – he has 26 in Tests – has hurt him in that re­spect.

For Kohli, though, the ‘ri­valry’ is some­thing he is en­joy­ing, if not ob­sess­ing about.

“It is a ri­valry that is great for the game,” he said. “Peo­ple like talk­ing about it. It is a great topic of de­bate.

“You feel good that you are in a bunch of bats­men who are tak­ing world cricket for­ward and not just hav­ing that ri­valry be­tween us.

“As an in­di­vid­ual I do not fo­cus on these things be­cause it is a mas­sive dis­trac­tion. When you are go­ing through a good phase you want to look at the rank­ings and see if you are ahead in the race but you could get so into it when you are not do­ing well and it can back­fire and re­ally put you down as a player.

“To me all these play­ers are world class and I rate each of them higher than me in Test cricket be­cause of the way they have per­formed in the last twoand-a-half years. I al­ways un­der­stand my lim­i­ta­tions in the long­est for­mat of the game.

“My aim has never been to go above Joe, Steve or Kane. I re­spect them as op­po­nents and I think there is equal amount of re­spect among all of us.

“I ad­mire the way all these guys play and I think it is a healthy com­pe­ti­tion which peo­ple talk about and it should go on for a few years.”

It is a healthy com­pe­ti­tion that Root will be at the heart of over the com­ing years. And the added re­spon­si­bil­ity of cap­taincy, when­ever that does come, may see him go up yet another level.

Tal­ents: Kane Wil­liamson and Steve Smith are among the world’s best

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