Not content with producing one of the most dominant streaks in Test match batting history, Joe Root has turned his attention to the IPL. Although he decided against registering for the 2021 auction, and went unsold in 2018, Root has made it clear that he is determined to feature in the tournament in the future.
“At some point of my career, I am desperate to be a part of an IPL season. Hopefully, a few more beyond that as well. It is something I would love to experience, and love to be a part of,” said Root at his most recent press conference.
On the face of it this seems like a great match. One of the biggest names in the sport, playing the best cricket of his career, performing in the biggest tournament in the world. However things are unlikely to be as simple as that for the England Test captain, as, unfortunately for him, franchises in the IPL are becoming a lot more savvy when it comes to player recruitment.
Whilst Root is a fine cricketer, his T20 career so far does not suggest he offers a huge amount of upside in the IPL. Looking at Root’s raw statistics in T20 cricket and you see a player who is a very capable strike rotator, who also has a low dismissal rate, but does not hit boundaries at a particularly threatening rate. These metrics basically add up to a player who is a good, though unspectacular, “anchor” for a side to build a total around. The problem is that, in simple terms, the market for the anchor is deep.
This issue is compounded by the characteristics of the Indian player pool. Top order accumulators, who can play the anchor role in a T20 innings are plentiful among the local talent. This means that smart franchises look to fill their overseas slots with pace bowlers, or batters capable of clearing the boundary rope, the two areas of the game where Indian pool is shallower. More bad news for Root.
At present, that leaves Root with two ways into the 2022 IPL. The first is that a franchise takes a flyer on one of the game’s galacticos, based on no recent evidence that he will be of any use. This sounds ridiculous, but is in the play-book of a couple of teams, though even Royal Challengers Bangalore are far less cavalier in this area than they have been in the past.
The second is that Root breaks back into the England T20 side, carries his form across formats, and also demonstrates that he has found a new, higher gear, which sets him apart from the other accumulators in the auction pool. It will come as no shock that Root himself has talked about this: “I would love to be a part of that World Cup squad, I love playing all three formats, everything is a different challenge. If I get an opportunity, all I can do is try to score as many runs as I can when it comes to T20 games.”
The problem with this pathway is that, whilst it is plausible that Root could reinvent himself, logistically it is very unlikely that he’ll get the opportunity to demonstrate this. England’s Test schedule this year is punishing, leaving little time for Root to press his case domestically for a recall to the England T20 side. He, of course, will remain optimistic, and it would take a brave man to bet against him achieving anything at the moment, but logic suggests that an IPL contract will remain elusive.