Root uproots his own sweep
Joe Root wouldn’t turn to his sweep, not when he is being defeated in the air, not when he hasn’t yet gauged the true bounce. Joe Root waits, Joe Root grinds!
The sweep shot resided at the center of the cricketing community going into this series. Joe Root had so far created a mirage of safety around the sweep shot. As Rory Burns would find out, there are threats abound with this shot. I earlier penned a piece as to how Root’s interception points and his shot selection should give Indians a bigger headache than the dreaded sweep itself. The Yorkshire man would find the lingering risk in the shot, and put it in the back burner at Chepauk, on his way to a double ton. To change tactics after failures is understandable, but to change tactics after a series where he had run away success requires courage and foresight.
Joe Root has been traveling well all his career. There is only a narrow little bridge between his overall and away averages. Joe has a higher average away from home than at home in the last 5 years. His tempo doesn’t change much either.
Yet, the one statistic that has always been hanging around Joe is his conversion of 50s to 100s. Nobody seems to realize he has more 50+ scores than anyone else in the last 5 years. I blame it on the English conditions, where you are never really in as a batsman. Joe Root, it seems, has chosen Asia to set this record straight.
Uprooting his own sweep shot :
His first ball against Ashwin, when Joe Root jumped out of his crease and tried to work the ball away, he found the leading edge. Joe discovered a part of the bat which didn’t exist in Sri Lanka. The next one ball is flatter but fuller, Ashwin is playing with the trajectory now. Root is on the back-foot for a ball he would have preferred to be on the front.
A realization struck and a wry smile to Ashwin followed. A realization that he was up against an off spinner at the very peak of his skills. His rather perfect interception points took a beating off the very first ball. The dip and the drift had foxed him, but not got into him.
But, Joe Root wouldn’t turn to his sweep, not when he is being defeated in the air, not when he hasn’t yet gauged the true bounce. Joe Root waits, Joe Root grinds. Joe Root has other things to turn to - patience, nimble feet and straight batted shots!
Another examining spell post lunch, this time Ashwin is generating generous drift. But, the sweep shot can wait. Joe doesn’t use his sweep when he is in trouble, he uses his sweep when he is in command. 56 balls into his innings, Joe Root has done enough stalking. When he sees Washington Sundar doing very little through the air, Joe Root unravels the sweep. When Nadeem, goes around the wicket and lands it outside leg stump, Root brings out the reverse.
The bat lift :
Not so long ago, Joe Root had a prominent bat lift and an early one at that. Higher bat lift takes full toll of the Newton’s second law of motion - imparting momentum on the ball. His first ton as a skipper against South Africa in 2017, still featured that big early bat lift.
Joe Root makes another little tweak to his game. When Jasprit Bumrah tries his time tested sharp yorker early on the 2nd day, this technical change comes handy. Root brings down his bat, with time to spare. He has been batting with a shorter bat lift this series and even shorter one against Bumrah. He has gone after another technical shortcoming with foresight and ruthlessness. Wait for a deteriorating day 5 pitch and Joe’s changes will bear even more fruit.
Playing away from the body is alright! :
The first ball he faced to Bumrah was another instance which highlighted the master adapter that he is. He realizes the threat that Bumrah poses early on. He realizes that this is nowhere near an English pitch, even though the curator was big on it. He plays away from the body with an open face to get off strike. For someone who has played all his career in overcast and challenging conditions, he still is able to give up on his leaving instincts outside off.
Joe Root is ready to adapt, not only from series to series, but through the course of a match, on the fly. He is ready to sacrifice a shot which has brought him so much success just so that he can unleash it later with greater might.
Cover photo : bcci.tv