Can Root follow Kohli, Smith and Williamson? England's new captain examined with Opta data

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Joe Root's accession to the England captaincy completes the collection of cricket's four leading batsmen taking charge of their countries in the Test arena.

The Yorkshireman follows in the footsteps of Virat Kohli, Steven Smith and Kane Williamson in turning from inspirational batter to burdened and badgered skipper.

Additional responsibilities have been highlighted as a potential impediment to Root's natural game, but the three men he is replicating have shown that such fears can be quashed.

With the help of Opta data, we examine the footsteps Root should be following.

 

BIG FOOTSTEPS TO FOLLOW

Root's record of 4,592 Test runs at an average of 52.8 is relatively on par with his trio of top-ranking rivals, although a tally of 11 hundreds puts him bottom of a list that Smith leads with 17.

Smith, in particular, shows that being lumped with the captaincy can inspire even greater form with the bat.

SMITH PRE-CAPTAIN: 30 Tests. 2540 runs at 51.83. Eight hundreds.
SMITH AS CAPTAIN: 20 Tests. 2212 runs at 73.73. Nine hundreds.

KOHLI PRE-CAPTAIN: 31 Tests. 2098 runs at 41.13. Seven hundreds.
KOHLI AS CAPTAIN: 22 Tests. 2111 runs at 63.96. Eight hundreds.

WILLIAMSON PRE-CAPTAIN: 48 Tests. 4037 runs at 49.23. 13 hundreds.
WILLIAMSON AS CAPTAIN: 10 Tests. 770 runs at 55. Two hundreds.

Smith's record since replacing Michael Clarke is nothing short of phenomenal. In that time he has faced stern examinations against New Zealand home and away, a tour of Sri Lanka and South Africa, the latter being the only series of those four in which he did not register a century.

Since being confirmed as MS Dhoni's permanent successor, Kohli has played 13 of 22 Tests in home conditions, helping him become the world's second-highest ranked batsman behind the all-conquering Smith.

Williamson's comparative lack of time as New Zealand skipper makes his figures slightly less instructive, but the pattern is the same.

 

THE POISONED CHALICE?

Concern over Root's batting prospects with the added burden of captaincy could be linked to his predecessors' records.

Arguably, only the role currently filled by Kohli is under more scrutiny than the England captaincy.

But of the last six England skippers to take charge of more than 10 Tests (rendering Mark Butcher, Marcus Trescothick and Kevin Pietersen irrelevant to this debate), only the country's last leading Yorkshireman, Michael Vaughan suffered statistically.

Vaughan's average of 51 when in the ranks plummets to 36 across his 51 Tests as captain.

It is safe to say, however, that the 2005 Ashes, a national-record 26 wins as skipper and beating South Africa away from home for the first time in 40 years will protect Vaughan's legacy.

Alastair Cook (46.4 - 46.6), Andrew Strauss (41 - 40.8), Andrew Flintoff (31.5 - 33.2), Nasser Hussain (38.1 - 36) and Michael Atherton (35.3 - 40.6) all saw their average remain steady without and with captaincy.

 

TIME TO GROW

One thing on Root's side is his age.

He has a wealth of experience behind him thanks to 53 Tests (the same as Kohli, three more than Smith, five fewer than Williamson) but plenty of time to learn from mistakes and become a high-powered leader.

Test captains:

Jason Holder (West Indies) Nov 5 1991
Joe Root (England) Dec 30 1990
Kane Williamson (New Zealand) Aug 8 1990
Steve Smith (Australia) Jun 2 1989
Virat Kohli (India) Nov 5 1988
Mushfiqur Rahim (Bangladesh) May 9 1988
Angelo Mathews (Sri Lanka) Jun 2 1987
Graeme Cremer (Zimbabwe) Sep 19 1986
Faf du Plessis (South Africa) Jul 13 1984
Misbah-ul-Haq (Pakistan) May 28 1974