Joe Root's childhood coach spells out his secret to success

"He has focused on more careful shots both on the off and on side, deflected, driven or punched off the back foot. It has lowered the risk, especially early in his innings, and cut out the tendency to drive on the front foot to a swinging ball," says Root's childhood coach Peter Maw.

Joe Root

England captain Joe Root celebrates after scoring a century against India at Headingley on August 26.   -  AP

It's been a while since an England batsman has played with the consistency and freedom that Joe Root is showing in the five-match Test series against India.

At Headingley, he scored his sixth Test hundred of 2021 - third of the series - to draw level with former skipper Michael Vaughan (2002) and Denis Compton (1947) for the England record of most Test centuries in a calendar year. As if that wasn't enough, he has also kept himself in sight of Mohammad Yousuf's record of 1788 Test runs in a calendar year. Root currently has 1419 and is No.1 in the ICC Test batting rankings for the first time since December 2015.

Root's childhood coach Peter Maw attributes his ward's unstoppable run-making to a conscious change of approach with the bat. "It would appear that Joe has reset his game somewhat by losing some of the bigger-scoring shots straight down the ground that comes from the T20 playbook," says Maw. "He has focused on more careful shots both on the off and on side, deflected, driven or punched off the back foot. It has lowered the risk, especially early in his innings, and cut out the tendency to drive on the front foot to a swinging ball."

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Root has played many beautiful strokes throughout this series - the fine sweep and reverse-sweep, the gorgeous clips off his legs. But the back-foot punches through cover have stood out. According to Maw, Root's advantage has been his impeccable technique. "This was evident from his first days at secondary school. In his first year, he scored a century in the Sheffield Schools final (20 overs), and every shot was along the ground. There was always patience, but he generally scored steadily from the off, usually through singles or shots for four. He was never a power hitter, preferring accumulation to spectacular shots. His power increased as he grew, but his fundamental approach to the game has remained the same."

England has won four Tests in 2021 and Root has made a century in all of them. He will be pivotal to England's success in the longest format, especially with the Ashes coming up later this year. He has already had to contend with the absence of two of his best players, Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer. And yet, Root has managed to summon the best form of his career and fight and spunk from his teammates. Maw says Root was always a natural leader. "He displayed an impressive maturity about the way he conducted himself and dealt with peers and adults alike," Maw says. "By a long way, he was the most gifted young person I have ever seen play the game. Not only was his technical ability brilliant, but he understood and read the game like no other of that age."

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Changes are a reflection of the times, and that's the case with batting techniques too. Maw says Root has trusted his method but has shown the willingness to adapt. "Fundamentally he has had the technique for the longer form of the game, but he adapted those skills to be able to compete at the highest level in both 50-over and T20 formats. However, it could be that having reached the age of 30, he has had to rein in both his instincts and ambitions for the 20 over-game and focus on the five-day format, particularly with the Ashes coming up this winter – the ultimate test as a player and captain.

"I’m sure his legacy will be one of England’s greatest (cricketers) of all time and up there in the pantheon of world greats."

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