The alpha, deceived by his toothless pack, waged a lone battle

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29 Dec 2021 | 02:54 PM
authorAnirudh Kasargod

The alpha, deceived by his toothless pack, waged a lone battle

A year in which Joe Root averaged 62.7, none of the other England batsman averaged more than 35

The great mathematician G.H. Hardy once said “Cricket is the only game where you are playing against eleven of the other side and ten of your own”. If we put ourselves in Joe Root’s shoes, Mr. Hardy makes a lot of sense. Despite scoring 1500+ runs in a Test calendar year, Root was constantly under criticism of his captaincy. Imagine a batsman who has scored 1500+ runs in a year and no other batsman from his team has scored half the runs and still gets criticized for his captaincy.

Irrespective of all that, the year 2021 has completely belonged to Root on the batting front. Starting off the year with a mammoth 228 against Sri Lanka in Galle, he followed it up with back-to-back 150+ scores in his next two matches, 186 against Sri Lanka in the second Test and 218 in the first Test against India in Chennai. Interestingly, the double century against India came in his 100th Test.

Though there was a barren streak of 11 innings without a 50+ score after his double century, Root picked it up against India when they toured England in July 2021. He kicked-off the series with a 64 and 109 in Nottingham and went on to score 564 runs in four matches with three centuries. The highlight of his batting was, whenever he scored a century, he made sure it was daddy hundred. Out of the six hundred he scored this year, four of them were 180+ scores.

Records galore as Root scored 1708 Test runs in the year 2021. Here are some of the statistical delights from his 2021 campaign:

First English batsman to 1500+ runs in a year

Though England started to play Tests from 1877, not until 70 years from the start did they play enough Tests in a year to enable one of their batsmen to score 1000+ runs. Denis Compton in 1947 became the first English batsman to achieve this feat when he scored 1159 runs. Denis Amiss in 1974 broke Compton’s record when he scored 1379. Michael Vaughan in 2002 went past Amiss’s tally by scoring 1481 runs. After 144 years, in 2021, Root became the first England batsman to score 1500+ runs in a calendar year.

The lone wolf

Root has scored 1708 runs in the year 2021. Whereas, the next best batsman for England hasn’t even scored half the runs. Rory Burns with 530 runs is the second best and is the only other batsman to hit a century this year. A difference of 1178 runs between the top two runs scorers is a testimony of Root’s lone battle. In no other year in Tests has there been a difference of this high between top two runs scorers of a team. Sir Viv Richards (1710) and Roy Fredricks (829) in 1976 had a difference of 881 runs, the previous highest. 

Over 800 runs separating Root and Rohit

Root is the only player this year to score 1000+ runs. The next best batsman is Rohit Sharma with 906 runs in 21 innings. There is a difference of 802 runs between the top two run scorers this year. This is the highest difference between the top two run scorers in a year (Overall top two run scorers). Previously, Richards (1710) and Sunil Gavaskar (1024) in 1976 had a difference of 686.

In addition, this is only the second time in this century where only one batsman has scored over 1000 runs a calendar year. Marnus Labuschagne in 2019 with 1104 runs was the only batsman with 1000+ runs.

Stand-alone performances

In the 29 innings Root batted this year, he was the top scorer for England in 12 innings this year, including his 28 in the third innings of the third Ashes Test. No other batsman in a calendar year has top scored his team in an innings as many times as Root has in 2021. G Smith in 2008 had achieved this feat 11 times for South Africa, the highest then.

This also is one of the reasons why Root has contributed 26.2 percent of runs this year for England. Among batsmen who have scored 1000+ runs in a year, only Richards (27%) in 1976 had contributed more than Root.  

Leading from the front

All the runs Root scored in 2021, came as a captain. In the third Ashes Test, Root etched another record en-route to his 50 in the first innings. With 1708 runs, Root surpassed Graeme Smith’s tally of 1656 in 2008 as a captain. His six centuries this year is the joint second most for a captain in a calendar year, alongside Ricky Ponting in 2005 and Smith in 2008. Ponting in 2006 had hit seven centuries, which is the most for a captain. To add more, Root is now the leading run scorer among England captains in Tests with 4937 runs. He went past Sir Alastair Cook’s record of 4844 runs.

Root ruled over India in 2021

On the back of a sensational Sri Lanka tour in early 2021, Root stepped into India’s territory with a rich vein of form. He started the series with a double century, but failed to score big in the rest of the three matches. However, when India toured England, Root scored over 550 runs with three centuries to his name. In 15 innings against India in 2021, Root scored 932 runs, which is the most for a batsman against India in a calendar year. Overall, only one batsman has scored more runs against a team in a year. Sir Donald Bradman had scored 974 runs against England in 1930, all his runs came in a single Ashes series.

Root contributing in all possible ways

Root’s contributions were not just with the bat, but with the ball as well, Root bagged 14 wickets this year. Among the 37 players who have scored 1300+ runs, only three of those have bagged 10+ wickets to go along in a calendar year, including Root. Bob Simpson in 1964 had scored 1381 runs and had 10 wickets to his name. Virender Sehwag in 2008 had scored 1462 runs with 15 wickets. Root is one among the elite list with 1708 runs and 14 wickets this year.

It doesn’t end there, out of those 14 wickets, 12 have come in away matches and out of 1692 runs, 1047 have been in away matches. By virtue of it, he is the only player to score 1000+ runs and pick up 10+ wickets in away matches in a calendar year.

The only one holding up

In the year 2021, Root faced a total 3004 balls and he had balls/dismissal ratio of 107.3. He was the only batsman this year to face over 2000 balls. Among his teammates, only two other batsmen had faced more than 1000 deliveries, but none were even close to Root in terms of ball/dismissal ratio. In fact, the whole of the top seven batsmen of England weren’t half good as Root was. In comparison to Root’s balls/dismissal ratio of 107.3, the rest of the top seven lost a wicket every 52.5 balls.

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EnglandIndiaJoe RootRory BurnsRohit Sharma

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