In 2014, former New Zealand cricketer Martin Crowe forecasted four batsmen to reach great heights in Test cricket in the next decade. The famed quartet, called the Fab Four, included Indian star Virat Kohli, Australian ace Steve Smith, New Zealand’s hero Kane Williamson, and English icon Joe Root.
All four bat at number three or four in the longest format and lead their respective teams, apart from Smith, who was stripped of the leadership duties after the ball-tampering episode. The four have been churning runs for fun across the globe and, as predicted by Crowe, have become the greatest batsmen of their era.
However, one among the four started showing signs of slowing down, which might prove Crowe’s prophecy false.
Root’s Fading Returns
Out of the big four, Joe Root’s fortunes have taken a dip in recent years. The England captain has often found himself out of conversations regarding the Fab Four after failing to keep up with the might of the other three. There have also been arguments of him being replaced by other cricketers, such as Australia’s David Warner, South African AB de Villiers and even the 26-year-old Babar Azam from Pakistan.
While Kohli, Smith and Williamson have also witnessed slight slumps at different stages of their careers, they have been able to work their game and seize the fall. But Joe Root’s form took a massive hit in 2017, with a string of low scores – the exact opposite of what the Fab Four are acclaimed for.
A dismal tour of Australia in 2017, when Root returned with 237 runs in the first four Tests, triggered the debates for Root’s ouster from the tetrad. Under Root’s captaincy, England were decimated by the Australians, losing the Ashes 4-0.
The continuous demand of putting big runs on the board and the added pressure of Test captaincy saw Root’s average slip below 50 in 2019 as his dismal run with the willow gave his detractors more ammunition to push him out.
But just when everyone was questioning Crowe’s prediction from 2014, Root showed signs of revival.
In the first overseas assignment since the pandemic, Root led the English side to the island nation of Sri Lanka to play two Test matches. On the spin-friendly pitches of the sub-continent where the English struggle, Root thrived. It never looked like the skipper had lost his quick feet, fancy wristwork and sharp eyes – the attributes that made him a vital member of the Fab Four.
Root broke the slump with a splendid double-century in the first innings of the opening Test and followed it with an incredible 186 in the second match, reminding everyone of his hay days. Deservedly, he was named Player of the Series.
However, Root’s endeavour to reclaim his spot in the big four did not end in Sri Lanka. He led England to India for a four-match Test series and struck another double-century, this time against a much fiercer opposition, featuring Jasprit Bumrah, Ravichandran Ashwin, and Ishant Sharma.
Considering his recent form that can take on the best in business and mammoth numbers to back that claim, Root has silenced the naysayers and certainly found a way back into the Fab Four of cricket.
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