Has Joe Root eclipsed Virat Kohli, Steve Smith, Kane Williamson in ‘Fab 4’ race?

Joe Root has hit 10 cenutries since either of Virat Kohli, Steve Smith, and Kane Williamson even got one | Courtesy-BCCI on Twitter

KEY HIGHLIGHTS

  • Joe Root has gone level with Virat Kohli and Steve Smith with 27 Test centuries
  • Root has 10 centuries since the start of 2021 in Test cricket
  • Root crossed the 10,000 run mark in Test cricket last week
It was way back in 2014 that legendary New Zealand cricketer saw into the future and declared Virat Kohli, Steve Smith, Kane Williamson, and Joe Root as the ‘Fab 4’ of the current generation of batters in world cricket. His prediction of him could not have been more right as the four players have dominated all three forms of the game over the last decade and established themselves as four of the finest players to have played the sport in history.

While the four players have given joy to cricket fans with their sensational batting and won numerous matches for their country, it has also given rise to intense debate about who is the best among the four. With Root’s incredible form in the last 18 months, many have tipped him as the finest player of the current generation.

Root’s form

Over the last 18 months, Joe Root has hit unprecedented form which has seen him score 2368 runs in 22 matches at an incredible average of 59.20. In this period, he has notched up 10 centuries. Quite incredibly in the same time period; Kohli, Smith, and Williamson have not even scored one century combined in red-ball cricket. Last week Root became the joint youngest player to cross the 10,000 run mark in Test cricket.

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Is Root the best of the ‘Fab 4’?

Having gone level with Kohli and Smith on century count after his incredible ton in the second Test match against New Zealand, the cricket fraternity is bound to question if Root has established himself as the finest batter of the current ‘Fab 4.’ While there is no doubting that on current form that is the case by a significant margin, over the course of their careers, it is highly debatable.

Ultimately these four players will be judged on the entire course of their careers and it is worth noting that despite Root’s surreal form in the last one and half years, he has only now gone level on Smith and Kohli’s century count.

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Overall, Root has 27 Test centuries in 118 Test matches while Kohli has the same number in 101 games. Meanwhile, Smith has notched up the same number of three-figure scores in 85 Test matches. At the time when Kohli and Smith scored their 27th Test ton, they had played 84 and 75 red-ball international matches respectively.

It is only after his ton in the Trent Bridge Test that Root (50.20) has gone past Kohli’s (49.95) Test average. He is still far away from Smith’s incredible average of 59.77 which might be the most consistently a player has shown in Test cricket since Don Bradman. Talking about Kane Williamson, his Test record of 7289 runs in 87 Test matches at an average of 52.8 is as good if not better than Kohli and Root.

As far as limited-overs cricket goes while Root, Williamson, and Smith are extremely good players in ODI cricket in their own right; Kohli’s record of 12311 runs in 260 matches at an average of 58. 1 with 43 centuries make not just the finest of the current generation but arguably of all-time in the 50-over format.

Talking about T20 cricket while none of the four are considered modern-day T20 players, it is only Kohli at his peak who has dominated the format while Williamson has had a few decent IPL seasons. However, the star Indian batter still holds the almost unbreakable record of scoring 973 runs in a single season of the league in 2016. He won the Man of the Tournament award at the T20 World Cup twice (2014 and 2016). On the current date, Kohli has an incredible T20I average of 51.5 at a respectable strike-rate of 137.7. Each of Root, Smith, and Williamson have an average in the 30’s in the shortest format while all three of them have a strike rate in the 120s.

The final verdict

While the numbers tell an important part of the story, a big part to determine greatness is longevity. At the moment, Root might be winning that battle as at the age of 31, there is no stopping him from even breaking Sachin Tendulkar’s record and becoming the highest run-getter in the longest format. However, until it is done, it will be too early to pass any judgments.

As Kohli’s recent dip in form has shown, no batter is ever far away from losing his midas touch. In fact, if someone as good as the Indian legend, who dominated world cricket can lose his form, it is a lesson that anyone can. Hence, talks of Root eclipsing them are premature at this stage as he is bound to slow down while the likes of Kohli, Smith, and Williamson are too good to not once again start firing.

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And if the debate is about all three formats of the game, Root will need to have to have a similar invincible spell in white-ball cricket as he is having in the whites at the moment to upstage Kohli’s legacy. If it’s just about Test cricket, Smith’s numbers are still very daunting to be disregarded.

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