It was around 2014-15 that Virat Kohli, Steve Smith, Kane Williamson and Joe Root began to be referred to as the Fab-Four in the cricketing circle. The epithet was an acknowledgment of the quartet’s ability to score runs prolifically and consistently in Test cricket in different conditions. (More Cricket News)
In the ensuing years, their legend only continued to grow, and it was not without a reason. Between 2014 and 2018, Root, Smith and Kohli were the only batters to have amassed more than 5,000 runs.
Root scored 5,523 runs in 62 matches at an average of 53.91, Smith accumulated 5,229 runs in 48 games at 71.63 and Kohli churned out 5,083 runs in 54 Tests at 57.76. Williamson was slightly behind with 4,071 runs from 41 matches at 63.60 as New Zealand don’t play as many Tests as India, Australia and England.
Smith (21) and Kohli (20) were also first and second on the list of batters with most Test centuries in this period. Williamson (15) and Root (13) were fourth and fifth with David Warner (16) sandwiched among them.
ROOT FALLS BEHIND
At the start of 2019, all the four players had a 50 plus Test average with Smith leading the list (61.37) followed by Kohli (54.01), Williamson (51.44) and Root (50.44). In the next 24 months, though, the numbers dipped alarmingly for Root even as the other three continued to prosper with the bat.
During this period, while Williamson, Smith and Kohli scored runs at 73.52, 65.78 and 48.53 respectively, Root could manage only a below-par average of 38.67. The English cricketer also found it difficult to convert his fifties into hundreds during this phase. While Williamson registered five centuries in 19 innings and Smith four in 19, Root crossed the three-figure mark only twice in 36 innings.
Root’s career average before the beginning of England’s tour of Sri Lanka in January 2021 read 47.99 whereas Smith (62.07), Williamson (54.31) and Kohli (53.41) still averaged above 50. Root was also way behind them in terms of the number of Test tons. While Smith and Kohli had 27 centuries each, Williamson was not too far behind with 24. Root, on the other hand, had only 17 hundreds in his kitty at this stage.
Questions began to be raised on his place among the Fab-Four. His detractors argued that he was no longer worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as Smith, Kohli and Williamson. His poor 50s to 100s conversion rate was cited as a proof of his fall from greatness.
ROOT ROARS BACK
England’s two-Test series against Sri Lanka that got underway on January 14 2021 in Galle ushered a new phase of dominance and redemption in Root’s cricketing career. On a turning track, the then English skipper produced a masterclass on his way to a match-winning double hundred (228). He followed it with another sublime century (186) in the second Test as England clinched the series 2-0.
Since then, Root has not looked back. He topped run charts in England’s Test series against India both at home and away. He was the only English batter who looked like getting runs against Australia during the 2021-22 Ashes and he was the second highest run getter in the three-Test series against the West Indies earlier this year.
Root’s batting has reached a new level in the ongoing three-Test series against New Zealand where he has already scored two hundreds in three innings of the first Two matches. His fourth-innings hundred that guided his team to a five-wicket win over the Kiwis in the first match at Lord’s was especially noteworthy for it delivered England their first victory after nine Tests (England had lost six of these nine games).
Since that Sri Lankan tour in January 2021, Root has amassed 2,368 runs and conjured up 10 centuries in 42 innings of 22 Tests at a remarkable average of 59.20. In contrast, none of Smith, Kohli and Williamson have managed to go past three figures even once. The three batters, who were accumulating runs for fun earlier, had appeared to be only a shadow of their former self with Smith averaging 40.07, Kohli 30.20 and Williamson 24.85 during this period.
After living in the shadow of Kohli and Smith for years, Root seems to have finally emerged as the new leader of the Fab-Four. As he is only 31 and has recently completed 10,000 Test runs, the Yorkshire-born cricketer can now look to chase the great Sachin Tendulkar’s world record tally of 15,921 runs.
Fab-Four’s numbers in three different phases
1 Jan 2014 – 31 Dec 2018
1 Jan 2019 – 13 Jan 2021
14 Jan 2021 – till now (13 Jun 2022)
*Stats updated till the third day of the second Test between England and New Zealand in Trent Bridge