The art of batting has grown by leaps and bounds in the past decade and a half, and, with it, so has the phenomenon that is T20 cricket. SportsCafe recently caught up with Julian Wood, a modern-day T20 batting revolutionary, to understand what hinders Joe Root in the shortest format.
If power‐hitting can be considered an art in the modern game, then Julian Wood is the pioneer of teaching it to various players in current times. Wood is a former Hampshire batsman who specialises as a power-hitting coach and holds the certificate of being a England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) Level 3 coach.
The 52-year-old runs his coaching centre, Julian Wood Cricket Academy, in Reading, and he trains batsmen to incorporate modern-day T20 power-hitting techniques into their games, a skill that is simply a must in modern-day cricket. Wood’s intent is to revolutionise coaching for youngsters where he aims to develop their skills with advanced techniques, rather than the basic conventional ones.
In the past, Wood has worked as the batting coach of Big Bash League franchise Sydney Thunder and PSL outfit Multan Sultans, and has also worked alongside many prominent international cricketers. One of the most prominent names among the lot is England’s Test skipper Joe Root, and SportsCafe caught up with the former Hampshire cricketer to know and understand Joe Root the T20 batsman.
How and why does a world-class, all-round batsman like Root get ignored in the shortest format?
The game has changed more, the game has evolved more, it is more about power-hitting and ball striking and other players have evolved, moreover. Players like him in T20 cricket are endangered species, they are going out of the game in T20 cricket. It is not the 50-over format where he is the first name in the sheet.
Whenever the conditions don’t make run-scoring easy, players like Root will always have a place. But he is not a six-hitter, he is not even close to being a six-hitter, so only small chases allows him to make the ideal transition.
Why does Root struggle when it comes to power-hitting?
To me, it’s his bottom hand position. You can creat a lots of angles when you open your bottom hand up. Initially he very much had a traditional bottom hand grip which you set up to hit in the ‘V’, but if you turn your bottom hand it is a bit more palm-up grip which creates more options.
When I worked with him last time he was trying to hit from a batting position, but you cannot hit from a batting position and bat from a hitting position. He is trying to get a hold of his bottom hand grip. If run-scoring isn’t easy he is the one who is going to take succeed, but he needs to add more power where he is lacking at. And for that, he needs to come to me (chuckles). Before Covid-19 we trained together. I will touch his base may be in the August period.
Should Root come to you for advice, what changes would you implement in his power-hitting technique?
If in case he comes for training I will look at his hands, try and get his bottom hands up a bit more, do away from the traditional bat-lift and work more on his power game to create angles. You know he can create angles. He is a very very good cricketer. I need to overload his technique, get him in the right position and make him hit a lot of heavy balls with heavy bats to build his grip.
Root is popularly clubbed with Virat Kohli, Steve Smith and Kane Williamson in the ‘Fab Four’ group. How does Root’s power-hitting skills differ from the rest?
It is difficult for him (Root) as he is the Test captain, he is not a Virat (Kohli). Virat has got power, skill and touch. There are probably three or four players in the world who have got all three techniques. The other players are Williamson and AB de Villiers, who don’t play much, apart from franchise cricket.
Kane Williamson is someone who is similar to Root, but the trouble with Root is I think he has expanded more because of the players around him. England has got at least 10 explosive batters in their squad who can absolutely destroy the opposition.
Do you think Root can still make it to England’s World T20 squad?
If you look at Joe Root, his T20 average in international cricket is 35 which is good with the strike rate of 126 so that’s not bad. He is like the building block of the team in the ODI set-up, he will be the first name on that sheet but we (England) have so many power explosive players in T20I cricket. Will, he (Root) play in the T20 World Cup? I’m not sure! Should he play for the World Cup? I’m again not sure. I don’t think he gets in that side.
Dawid Malan has taken Root’s spot in the T20 side. How does Malan differ from Root and what options does Root have to push his case for the WT20?
Both are very good players, I would pick both the players. Malan is naturally more aggressive than Root. He is the No.1 T20I batsman in the world. The Hundred tournament is a good space for Root to stand there and say this is what I am capable of doing. He needs to work on his power game. In fact, he is working on his power game; if you look at his hands they have changed. His hands are quite low, his 200 against India (in Chennai) his hands were high.