The 30-year-old Root has been in sensational form in Test cricket this year. On Saturday (August 14), he struck his second consecutive hundred of the series, remaining unbeaten on 180 as England took a 27-run lead in the second Test against India at Lord’s.
“I think this is a reward for some incredible work he did in lockdown. It came at a time when he was 29 and had already had a fantastic career,” Atherton told ‘Sky Sports’.
“But it just gave him an opportunity to rest, where he’s said ‘I’ve got the second half of my career to come and I can go from being a very, very fine player to one of the all-time greats’,” he added.
With the century, Root crossed the 9,000 run mark in the format. He had started the year with double hundreds in the away series against Sri Lanka and India.
“He asked the analyst to send him every dismissal from the last five years or so, looked at it in great detail and tried to work out where he could go from there. He’s reaping the rewards of that.”
The former England captain-turned-cricket writer said the tweaks Root made in his techniques has resulted in a “golden run of form.”
“He’s made a slight technical adjustment now, with that back leg going straight back. That made him less vulnerable to the lbw when the ball is straight.
“For three years, he’s not been quite at his best at home against seam and pace bowling, but now he’s in a golden run of form that started at the beginning of 2021 when England went to Sri Lanka.
“He showed all his great skill on the dust bowls in Asia and now he’s got his very best game together in more seam-friendly conditions here at home.”
Root took England from a position of weakness to strength with the first innings total of 391 after India scored 364 in their first essay.
“The lovely thing is how he doesn’t seem burdened at all by the weight of captaincy and expectation at the moment. Think of the context of this innings – he came in on a hat-trick ball when India had just got two in two.”
“He’s the captain who put India into bat and they’ve put on 127 for the first wicket and made 364 – not a huge score but certainly more than you’d want when you put a side in. Those kind of things impact on you.”
Atherton said Root has been able to brilliantly compartmentalise his two duties — as a captain and as a batsman.
“He’s Joe Root the batsman, not Joe Root the captain burdened by expectation and pressure and he’s playing with great freedom.”
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