Why Joe Root must take a leaf out of Virat Kohli’s book
The England captain needs to be his own man like the Indian captain is.
'Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown’. You could be forgiven for thinking that this famous phrase written by the world-renowned poet and playwright William Shakespeare for the play King Henry IV was actually penned for the current England skipper Joe Root instead. So evident has been the burden of captaincy on the young incumbent that he could easily be mistaken for one of the many protagonists in the writer’s numerous tragic plays, rather than the captain of the English cricket team.
Joe Root has been in the hot seat for less than a year but holding the most coveted job in English cricket has already taken a heavy toll on the once carefree and cherubic Yorkshireman. Gone are the days when the baby- faced lad with the school boyish grin would take the field, replaced by a more dour and despondent figure. Even in victory, Root seems more relieved than ecstatic at achieving the desired result. All these signs do not bode well for the leader of the 3 Lions.
So is he the right man to lead England? Or was there no other suitable candidate for the role? Was simply the best batsman made the captain? The answer to all the above questions is a resounding YES! It has been a common practice in cricket to nominate a team’s best batsman as their captain and Root has been that for England for sometime now. Truth be told, there also was no other apparent leader once Cook decided to abdicate the throne. Having said that though, Root is absolutely the right man to lead England as he demonstrated with his creative field placements and bowling changes in the 1st Ashes test at Brisbane and even in the recent victory at Edgbaston, where despite having only 30 odd runs in the bank to play with, he made an unconventional move by having fielders patrolling the boundary in an effort to prevent India from blasting their way to the target. The move paid off and the need for them to milk the bowling to seal victory proved too much in the end for the Indian tail. He is a competent enough captain who is tactically creative and learning all the time. He is bound to make some mistakes along the way as every young captain will, like when he decided to bowl first, both at Brisbane in the last Ashes and in the recently concluded test at Trent Bridge, but will improve with experience.
The problem with Root has nothing to do with the game but rather with the intangible qualities of a leader. His quiet disposition and shy personality make him appear un-authoritative and unable to command the respect of his teammates in the way Nasser Hussain and Michael Vaughan did. He also seems unsure of himself in the middle when it comes to making critical decisions, be it when asking for a review or letting his teammates know that he expects more out of them. What also hasn’t helped his cause is his lack of serious runs as a batsman since his ascension to the top job. Most captains lead by example by performing the role they are in the team for exemplarily, thereby earning the respect of their teammates and raising the bar for the rest of the team to measure up to.
This is where Joe Root needs to take a leaf out of Virat Kohli’s book. He need not take on the larger than life persona of India’s skipper but where he could do well is to emulate the Indian megastar’s insatiable hunger for runs. The Indian captain has been the shining light among batsmen, in a series dominated by bowlers, amassing over 400 runs with 2 centuries (and almost a third one) along with 2 fifties in just 3 tests so far. In comparison the English skipper has just managed 142 runs with just one fifty and a highest score of 80. He will need to play more pivotal knocks like his Indian counterpart if he is to become the player and captain the whole of England expect him to be.
You couldn’t get 2 more contrasting captains than the men leading their respective sides in what has been a captivating contest between two evenly matched teams. Root is the quintessential English captain – reserved, serious, unexpressive and ‘proper’ while Kohli is passionate, exuberant, highly expressive and confident, a symbol of a nation on the rise. Kohli is authoritative and commands the respect of his entire team. There is absolutely no doubt as to who leads his team. His aggressive intent and hunger to win have rubbed off on his team. They have embodied his bold vision and their attitude and style of play clearly reflect their captain’s own. Root will have to clearly set out his vision for English cricket and define their playing style. He will need to inspire his team in the manner King Kohli does. He is already a more creative tactician than the Indian and if he can figure out the missing pieces of the captaincy puzzle, we may yet see Joe Root turn out to be England’s finest captain this century.