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How Root rates in cricket's 'Fab Four'

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 7/02/2017 By Tom White

England’s Alastair Cook and Joe Root © Reuters / Andrew Boyers England’s Alastair Cook and Joe Root Joe Root is tipped to take over the England Test captaincy after Alastair Cook's resignation, meaning the top four in the ICC batting rankings will all be captain of their country.

And while there have been fears over the effect leadership may have on the 26-year-old Yorkshireman's batting, the development of Steve Smith, Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson since taking over at similar ages offers encouragement.

The late New Zealand captain Martin Crowe, writing in 2014, referred to the group as cricket's "Fab Four", predicting they would battle for top billing in the years to come while all captaining their teams.

AVERAGES

Smith's pre-captaincy record is remarkably similar to Root's current statistics, with an average of 51.83 and a strike rate of 54. Root, who has played 53 matches compared to Smith's 30 at that stage, is one run higher on both figures at 52.80 and 55.

Since ascending to the captaincy, though, Smith has lifted his average to a stunning 73.73 while also adding nine runs to his strike rate. If Root can do something similar, England will have quite a leader on their hands - and all the more so if he can match Kohli's leap forward.

The India star has boosted his average by more than half as captain, from a relatively modest 41.13 to 63.96, and has scored more runs in his 22 Tests as captain than in his other 31. Williamson's progress is steadier but the New Zealander's average is almost six runs higher since succeeding Brendon McCullum.

CONVERSION

The main - and largely self-inflicted - criticism of Root's batting is that he fails to convert enough of his starts into defining scores. He has 27 Test half-centuries and only 11 centuries, a lesser record than the rest of the top four.

The nearest comparison pre-captaincy was Williamson, with 19 fifties and 13 hundreds, and his form since offers little encouragement. It is early days, just 10 Tests into his reign, and while he is reaching 50 more often in that time he has just two tons against six fifties.

Smith has converted exactly half of his 50-plus scores as skipper, with nine hundreds and nine fifties, while captain Kohli has an outstanding eight hundreds to four fifties. The pair's records without the captaincy saw Smith with eight hundreds and 11 fifties and Kohli seven and 10.

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