Joe Root admits he got ‘caught up’ in BazBall party but says honest experiments won’t be punished by England
Former Test captain Joe Root has conceded that he “got a bit caught up” in England’s ‘BazBall’ revolution, as he has struggled to find his identity in the team in life after captaincy.
After resigning as skipper in April last year, Root’s initial returns with the bat were phenomenal, with three centuries in four matches.
What followed, however, was a run of seven Tests where he averaged just 18.50, with one score above 23, before his half-century in the second innings of the first Test win over New Zealand broke the spell.
It is testament to the quality of Root that his barren run hardly registered with the press or the general public. This was not a player in crisis, just a person working out his game in the new image designed by Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum. It was, however, a run of form that played on the mind of Root himself.
Speaking shortly after England had wrapped up their 267-run victory, Root said: “If I’m being brutally honest, there was the initial relief of coming out of the captaincy. Now, I’m just trying to find out what my role is within this team.
“It sounds silly with the experience I have, but you want to be involved, be a part of it, you want to heavily contribute — and I felt like I’ve not been able to do that the last few Test matches.”
Of his 50, which came off 52 balls, he said: “I felt like I found a really good tempo in how I wanted to bat. I didn’t feel like I was in fifth gear, I felt like I was playing quite reserved in some respects but still scoring very quickly.”
It was a return to Root at his best. Played at a comfortable and quick tempo, it drew lavish praise from Stuart Broad, who described it as his former captain finding “that ODI rhythm”, before Root fell playing the reverse sweep in the moments leading up to lunch on day three.
It was the second time in the match that Root was dismissed playing a reverse-handed shot. His first-innings exit, caught at slip playing his newly-adopted reverse lap off the quicks, gave the impression of a friend who has recently taken up smoking when it does not suit them; by all means carry on if you wish, but are you sure this is what you are about?
“Probably, slightly,” a thoughtful Root said of whether ‘BazBall’ has changed the way he is playing. “I think for me I’ve just got to find out what sits best for me, and it’s going to take some time. It was calculated, to get them to bowl both sides of the wicket, change their plans and, in that middle session, force the game. I’ve got to where I’ve got to by trusting my gut… it’s now part of my Test game and I’ll continue to utilise it when it’s the right time.”
That Root is content with continuing the shot is a fair conclusion having had success with it in the past and it only failing him for the first time now. What’s more, that Root is happy to experiment and fail is also being held up in the changing room of how, even as a senior pro, that it’s okay to get things wrong from time to time.
“I think it’s not what it gives me,” Root said of the shot and his subsequent dismissal. “I think the reinforcement for the team is that it’s okay to get it wrong if it’s something to get you and the team success.
“In the recent past, it’s a case of the rhythms of the game, I’ve maybe got a bit caught up in it. But I’m not too far away from what’s given me success.
“I’ve not performed for a little while, so I had the bit between my teeth in the second innings and it’s given me a little sharpener, a kick up the backside, that this is how I need to play my cricket.”