Andrew Strauss has the 2010/11 Ashes victory. Michael Vaughan the '05 Ashes. Eoin Morgan, the World Cup. In ten years' time, what will Joe Root have?
In this article, I take a look at what England have coming up in 2021. A packed year, full of difficult series. Should Joe Root return to form, and England win them, he well go down as a great. But if he, and his side struggle, Root's legacy will be defined by as failure.
Joe Root will undoubtedly go down as one of England's best ever cricketers. He has nearly 8,000 test runs, 17 test hundreds, the best win % as test captain since Mike Brearley. Along with that, he has the most ODI hundreds for England, and has second the most runs (at a better strike-rate than KP), and was a key cog in a World Cup winning side. Bluntly, his record is very good.
However, for an England test skipper, very good is not impressive enough. He may have 17 hundreds, but 49 fifties! They don't win games. His average, once a glorious 52, is now under 48, and is 10 points lower as a captain. Can he handle leadership? He hasn't scored a test hundred in Australia! Not good for a skipper preparing for his third tour. 2020 was the first calendar year where Root didn't notch up a test hundred since his debut year of 2012-is the magic falling away?
Well, yes. 7 tests in 2014 saw Root average 97. It was 60, 49, 50 in the next three years. Root had just started as captain, was one of the best in the world, and on top form. Since then, it's been 41, 37 and 42. Decent, and given England's recent woes with the bat, hardly a major issue. But "look on my works ye mighty and despair" good? Captain of England levels of good? No, Root, since 2018, and the main correlating factor, as captain, has been, well average.
It hurts to describe the once golden child, now our captain as average-but that's what he is. A test average of 48 still gets him in our side-but dreams of 15,000 test runs, 40 100s, now seem idealistic nonsense. Root is good, average, decent. But world class? Absolutley not! An Englishman? World Class? It cannot be. And he isn't.
That is, unless 2021 is his year. It has to someone's, right? But if any year is to be the year of Root, it ought to be this one. For our sake, as England fans, and for his sake, his average, and, I don't say this lightly: his legacy.
2021 sees England play at least 16 test matches (2 v Sri Lanka, in Sri Lanka; 4 v India, in India; 5 v India, in England and 5 v Australia, in Australia), with a possible series against New Zealand in England also rumoured: Root will have a busy year. He is the only player expected to feature in every test this year.
All of the series will be difficult. While England did win 3-0 in Sri Lanka last time, they can expect a challenge on turning tracks from Sri Lanka. Root, given his playing of spin, and arguably his best ever test hundred coming last time out in Sri Lanka, will be key to any chance of securing both tests.
Then India, where England haven't won since 2012, the series in which Root made his debut, with Cook and KP the stars. To stand any chance against a very good Indian side, who are currently fighting the Aussies very well, England will have to get very big runs, against a very good attack. Root will need help, but England don't stand much of a chance without him.
Then comes India at home, having been 4-1 in 2018, a score line that didn't reflect the series' evenness. In English conditions that will suit both sets of talented bowlers, runs will be hard to come by, and fifties, let alone 100s from Root will help, in what is probably the only series this year England can feel confident of winning.
Then comes the big test. In Root's 9 tests in Australia, he has an average of 38. This is respectable, for it is a difficult place to bat, but, should England even hope of regaining the Ashes, Root will need lots more runs.
Winning down under, along with in India, is one of the toughest tests for England. Root faces both in a year. Win one, let alone two, of these series, and Root has his legacy. One can hear it now, as Ian Ward introduces him during a rain delay, to offer his views on what the squad should be for the 2038 tour:
"Now, Joe, you lead England to victory in India/Australia in 2021, who should they be thinking of..."
But, should England not win one of the series, and should Root not make runs, it is highly likely he will no longer be captain come 2022.
All England captains are remembered. Be it for their biggest achievement, or one call at a toss (no prizes or guessing who I'm on about here!). So far, Root has had a good, if unspectacular reign. A home win v India, away wins v Sri Lanka and South Africa. But a drawn Ashes at home, defeat in New Zealand, and another hammering down under. This is the year that will challenge this mediocrity of a player so very good, but not quite good enough. Root's captaincy has it's 50-now will it go on, and make him remembered for touring victories in 2021-or will he always be the captain who couldn't quite convert.