Win first, enjoy your personal accolades later.
That’s generally the accepted way that sporting stars go about their business, and Joe Root ticked both boxes after guiding England to an exceptional five-wicket victory over New Zealand in the first test of their series on Sunday.
When captain Ben Stokes was bowled out on Saturday to leave England precariously poised, their odds to win lengthened to 3/1 – but that price did not account for the class and determination of Root.
He would finish 115 not out – a milestone made all the sweeter by the fact that, in doing so, he became just the second Englishman in history to pass the 10,000 test runs landmark.
The first, Alastair Cook, paid a glowing tribute to his former teammate, and believes Root will go ‘miles past’ his figure of 12,472 runs.
“He is a pleasure to watch, the most complete England batsman I have seen,” the former England captain said.
“Barring injury, he’ll go miles past my record.”
But how far past? At the age of 31, Root still has time on his side and is perhaps batting better than he has ever done – could Sachin Tendulkar’s magical mark of 15,921 runs be in danger?
The Next In Line
There are thirteen players above Root in the all-time leading run-scorer charts – six who amassed 12,000 runs or more during their test career, and seven who just fell beneath that milestone.
|Brian Lara||West Indies||11,953|
|Shivnarine Chanderpaul||West Indies||11,867|
|Mahela Jayawardene||Sri Lanka||11,814|
Given that all of them have now retired from cricket, and that Root is averaging around 1,000 runs per calendar year, it surely won’t be long before he surpasses the likes of Younis Khan (10,099 runs), Sunil Gavaskar (10,122) and Steve Waugh (10,927).
He may have to wait until next year to reel in Alan Border (11,174), Mahela Jayawardene (11,814) and Shivnarine Chanderpaul (11,867), but they will certainly be in his sights.
And then will come one of the most naturally-gifted batsman that cricket has ever seen: Brian Lara, who sits on 11,953 runs.
If, or more likely when, Root passes the 12,000 run mark, he will have cricket’s elite six test batsmen in his sight.
|Jacques Kallis||South Africa||13,289|
|Kumar Sangakkara||Sri Lanka||12,400|
The great Sri Lankan, Kumar Sangakkara, would then be in Root’s crosshairs, followed by his former England skipper Cook.
India’s stalwart Rahul Dravid was known as ‘The Wall’ for his no-nonsense approach to batting, but he too could crumble if Root continues his current trajectory, and then it would be into the top three.
Jacques Kallis almost became an all-rounder for South Africa, so vital was his bowling, and so the fact he cleared 13,000 runs while putting in the hard yards with ball in hand is testament to his talent.
Ricky Ponting is best known in England for his feisty Ashes performances, but that should not detract from what an outstanding batsman he was all over the world.
And then, finally, we have the ‘Little Master’ – Sachin Tendulkar. Few thought his 15,921-run haul would ever be beaten, but if Root stays fit and in-form until the age of 36 then he could get there. There would be no argument then that he is to be considered one of the finest batsmen in history.