While Joe Root is indisputably one of England’s best batsman of the last 20-years, the captaincy is clearly impacting upon his consistency, and it’s not a price England should be willing to pay.
Step back, and you see an overall record which is consistent, well-rounded.
After 82 Tests, he has 6803 runs at a solid average of 48.94, with tons against every side he’s played, bar Bangladesh.
Yet of late, something is not quite right.
He comes in, he gets in, and before you know it he’s on 30.
He has a nice partnership, gets past fifty, and then gives it away.
The batsman who has been England’s spine for years, capable of rebuilding or consolidating, has gone from being Mr Consistent, to Mr Consistently Inconsistent.
In the last two years, he has scored just three hundreds, averaging 29.50 in 2019 (before Lord’s) and 41.21 in 2018.
Since assuming the captaincy, his record has transformed.
While a rank-and-file batsman, he averaged 52.80 with 11 tons and 27 fifties.
While in charge, he has just five centuries and 15 half-centuries.
His average is down, his conversion rate is down and it is this inconsistency, which is a part of England’s problem.
Joe Root used to be in a bracket with Kane Williamson, Steve Smith and Virat Kohli, as the four elite batsmen in the world.
As ESPN Cricinfo highlights; that since January of 2017, Root’s record should just about put him in the top seven:
Perhaps one of the strangest things to happen with Root’s recent Test career, is his flip-flopping in the order.
Despite clearly performing best at number five in the order, with six hundreds and eight fifties in just 18 Tests, he moved to four and then ahead of the Ashes, offered to bat at three, seemingly to ‘solve’ England’s order crisis.
The reality is, Root’s inconsistent form and inability to convert 50s into centuries is the crux of the problem.
Him moving to three isn’t going to solve the issue, unless himself starts cashing in with big hundreds, instead of 50+ scores.
The problem England have had of late, has been around the opening combination. The inconsistency of Joe Root in that respect has been put into perspective of much bigger problems. It’s almost a ‘nice’ problem, that a batsman keeps getting 50s.
While it’s obviously preferable a batsman gets 50+ than a duck, it’s also the case that the overall jigsaw of England’s batting will only start to come together when Root himself starts to take responsibility, and the team can bat around him, and rely on him.
What does he need to do?
Either he needs to ditch the captaincy and try and find his form of old, free from that burden.
Or he needs to get back to number five; a position where there is less exposure to the new ball, and hopefully more of a platform.
Joe Root being saddled with the captaincy has an air of deja-vu about it, from his predecessor, Alastair Cook.
As if the best batsman just takes on the captaincy like a hereditary monarchy.
Yet, Root, like Cook, isn’t the world’s most inspiring captain.
Indeed, at Birmingham on TMS there was plenty of criticism of him over field placings for Moeen against Smith.
It’s not his forte. He has taken on this work-in-progress role, and the opportunity cost is his strength: runs.
England need Root the run-scorer more than they’ll ever need Root the tactician.
Let someone else steer the ship, you can be the engine.