World Cup: Time to let Yorkshire duo Root and Ballance off the leash

England's Joe Root plays a cut shot during their one day international cricket match against India in Perth
England's Joe Root plays a cut shot during their one day international cricket match against India in Perth
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ONLY one Englishman sits in the top-20 of the International Cricket Council one-day international world batting rankings and his name is Joe Root.

The Yorkshireman is 14th on the list, emphasising the way in which he has developed his game in recent times and the comparative lack of English talent.

Above Root on that list are four Indians (Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, MS Dhoni and Rohit Sharma), three South Africans (Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers and Quinton de Kock), two Australians (George Bailey and Aaron Finch), two New Zealanders (Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor) and two Sri Lankans (Kumar Sangakkara and Tillakaratne Dilshan).

The next highest-ranked Englishman is Jos Buttler (24th), with Ian Bell (26th) and Eoin Morgan (39th) the only other England players in the top-40.

If England are to have a successful World Cup, it is clearly essential that men such as Root and Buttler make their mark in no uncertain terms.

While the latter is typically cited as England’s gun batsman, a player with the ability to destroy an attack in the blink of an eye, Root is steadily growing in stature and seemingly improving with every outing.

As the ICC rankings show, the 24-year-old is so much more than a quality Test player, a man who averages over 50 in the five-day game after 22 appearances, five of which have brought centuries.

Root is a player of his time and three-dimensional; he can adapt not only to 50-over cricket but the crash-bang-wallop of Twenty20.

After a remarkably consistent start to his ODI career (each of Root’s first 14 innings were double-figure scores, 13 of them between 28 and 79 not out), the Sheffield-born right-hander experienced a dip in form before elevating his game to the next level.

In the past 12 months, Root has hit three one-day international hundreds (his 113 against India last September saw him become the first Yorkshireman to score an ODI century at Headingley) and made a number of impressive subsidiary contributions.

Although he would be the first to admit he is not yet the finished article, the work in progress is certainly encouraging.

It would be no surprise to see Root shine at the World Cup – even to the extent that he could outshine the likes of the swashbuckling Buttler, who has the talent to light up the tournament himself.

Root is no swashbuckler, but he certainly knows how to pack a punch. He is subtle with it, relying more on trusty technique and improvisation to keep the scoreboard ticking over and the opposition reeling.

In that regard, he is not unlike Graham Thorpe, who had the talent to work the ball cleverly into gaps.

Whereas Thorpe never made a hundred in his 82 ODIs, however, Root – as previously outlined – has already displayed the ability to “go big”.

Nor is he the only Yorkshireman with the talent to thrive at the World Cup.

Gary Ballance, if given the chance, could easily do so too after his recent absence with a fractured finger.

Ballance, the 25-year-old left-hander, has also made a stunning start to his Test career (he averages 60.75 from his eight games) but is still seeking to hold down an ODI place.

As anyone who has watched his progress at Yorkshire could testify, an ODI average of 26.10 (compared to an overall one-day career average of 51.68) barely scratches at the surface of his prodigious talent.

For what it is worth (and I am guessing it is not worth a hill of beans), I would play Ballance at No 3 in the ODI side.

He strikes me as more suited to that role than James Taylor, the Nottinghamshire batsman who could perhaps drop down the order to replace the out-of-sorts Ravi Bopara.

It was surely a mistake not to take Ballance to Sri Lanka prior to Christmas, just as it was a mistake to keep Alastair Cook as captain for that series, but it is not too late to bring Ballance back into the fold.

Like Root, one senses that he would rise to the challenge of the World Cup and the chance to pit his skills against the very best, and there seems little point in keeping him straining at the leash.