Failure to cash in frustrates Root

The inability of England’s best batsman to convert more regularly leaves him short of his rivals

Joe Root is no doubt one of the finest batsmen around right now yet his habitual failure to convert half-centuries into three-figure scores is holding him back from becoming a truly great player.

Root is rightly grouped in a quartet alongside Australia captain Steve Smith, India’s Virat Kohli and New Zealander Kane Williamson as amongst the leading quartet of modern batsmen.

All four transcend formats and conditions.

However, Root’s mental block when it comes to scoring Test hundreds is the one area where the other three leave him trailing in their wake.

In terms of Test averages, Root, on 53.34, and Smith (58.43) lead the way from Kohli (50.53) and Williamson (49.44).

Kohli's helmet hit a gift for England

Root’s first-innings 88 on the opening day of England’s final Test against India at Chennai was the 14th time in his past 17 innings he has failed to convert a half-century into a hundred.

The Yorkshireman has posted at least 50 in all five Tests during the series, yet has only one century – his 124 in the first innings of the series at Rajkot.

Overall his conversion rate is 29.78, Root having only reached a century 11 times from the 38 occasions he has got to 50.

Before the final Test against Sri Lanka at Lord’s in the last Northern summer, Root bemoaned the fact he should have at least 18 hundreds. Since then he has passed 50 on nine occasions and converted just twice, that innings in Rajkot and an admittedly fine 254 against Pakistan in Manchester.

Compared to his rivals, Root should be doing better. Smith (16 hundreds and 18 half-centuries), Kohli (15/14) and Williamson (14/24) all have better conversion rates and only the New Zealander has as many 50-plus score as the Englishman.

Root, who also fell 11 runs short of overtaking Michael Vaughan’s mark of 1481 for the most runs scored by an England batsman in a calendar year, said: “I’d be lying if I was to say I wasn’t frustrated about it.

“I will sit down and have a think in the new year. Hopefully Santa will help me out and fill the stocking with some runs. The milestones don’t mean anything if you don’t win any games but if you’re scoring big hundreds you’re giving the team a chance.”

Root is certain to be his country’s next Test captain whenever Alastair Cook stands down.

The incumbent, under pressure with his side 3-0 down in this series, remarked after England’s innings defeat in Mumbai on Monday that Root was “ready” to succeed him.

But could leading the side help Root kick his habit of failing to cash in when in form and reach another level like Smith, Kohli and Williamson have all done?

“You just never know,” Cook said. “I think a lot of players have a bit of a spurt when they first take over the captaincy and it levels out after a couple of years when you probably find your genuine level.”

Moeen's unbeaten ton lifts England

If Root is to become captain, perhaps as early as the new year, he needs to stop acting as petulantly as he did when he was dismissed here in Chennai.

Aggrieved by a speculative Indian review that saw him given out caught behind off Ravindra Jadeja thanks to a miniscule spike on Ultra Edge, Root stormed off mouthing a few choice words and giving the boundary rope a kick as he made his way back to the dressing-room.

“I probably was a bit childish with my reaction as I walked off,” said an apologetic Root.

“But playing international cricket, you’re going to be disappointed when you feel you’ve been hard done by – even if you haven’t.

“There was frustration there and hopefully I can start growing up a bit more.

“I was convinced I didn’t hit it. Obviously the technology suggests otherwise.

“If you look at the wicketkeeper's reaction, he’s not interested either. I think Kohli just went with his gut and it worked out. You just have to take it on the chin.”

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