Tuesday, March 5

Rooting for Root, and directions English cricket's taking

The emergence of Root - with his startling maturity, poise and ability to adapt himself to all paces of cricket - has suddenly made the English top order, which was looking a bit wobbly some time back, look so solid that I can't remember a top order more solid than this across conditions in the last fifteen years barring that Hayden-Langer-Gilchrist golden team of the Aussies. Suddenly, even England A is looking solid: the likes of Taylor are likely to stay awhile there, and Bairstow, Morgan and Bopara's Test hopes look to recede further and further away. Bairstow will at least hope that Prior will hang up his boots in two years' time, maybe after the twin Ashes: but will Bairstow be the number one keeper then, or will it be Buttler? Or someone else: in cricket, you never know!

What Root has indeed given to cricket overall is a refreshing batsman who can stick there like his captain, Cook, but who can also play murderous and innovative shots when needed: someone who is supremely talented, and in this he goes even beyond Cook. To say it another way, if Root can apply himself even 70 percent of what Cook does, he will be an all-time great: of course, it's easy to say that, hard to do, for people like Cook and Andy Flower are superhuman. They bat and bat ... and bat. Let the sun beat down or the ball swing, let them be beaten or let them complete a glorious century, the thing on their mind is keep batting. Unfazed - by failure or adulation. I personally think, though it's early days, Root, too, has such a balanced head on his shoulders: of course, if he does become successful, it will be interesting to watch how he copes up with IPL's lure, and will he remain the player he could be otherwise: in the modern era, it's much, much more difficult to achieve greatness, not only because the distractions are many, but also because greatness often finds itself decried and shunned. After all, droves go to watch a Chris Gayle, an ordinary batsman with great power; or even some Maxwell...

Coming to England, batting is not a problem for the foreseeable future, not until at least both the Ashes are over: my chief worry is a bowling attack that is getting thinner. Bresnan's career is over for me, we don't know if Tremlett would be that effective or not once he returns from layoff, and Broad is struggling with being out of form since a long time now (he was never a great bowler, anyway, though he has the potential to be). Finn is injury-prone, even if an excellent bowler: I can't see him lasting even these three NZ Test matches, let alone the 10 Ashes matches lined up! That leaves Anderson all alone, remarkable though he is! I think it's a big mistake by the selectors to not play Meaker in New Zealand: I don't see Woakes as a Test bowler, and Onions wouldn't trouble the Aussies much anyway, even if he were to regain his pre-injury form. Looking into the future, I think England must try out Meaker and Reece Topley in the whites, and soon: even in New Zealand, if one of Anderson or Finn does get injured, the English attack could really struggle! It's a solace that at least England's spin department is in good hands.

The times ahead are exciting for English cricket: it would be lovely to watch Root, KP and Cook in one team; hopefully, they can win the Ashes and carry that momentum to beat SA at home, because right now SA is being made to look a better side than they are.



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