MARK RAMPRAKASH, the former England batting coach, has questioned what benefit Joe Root is likely to derive from a “significant” technical change to his game after the Yorkshireman failed on day one of the first Test against New Zealand in Mount Maunganui.
Ramprakash – sacked from his role in March and replaced by his former England team-mate Graham Thorpe – said that he was “surprised” to see the Test captain make a back-and-across movement towards the off-side at the point of delivery instead of his usual more centred approach.
Ramprakash, 50, said that Root “didn’t look balanced”, “lacked fluency” and “lacked his normal intent”, adding that if he was still the batting coach, “I’d say, ‘what benefit is this new movement giving you?’”
Root, who has been working hard on his game at childhood club Sheffield Collegiate since the Ashes series, scored two runs from 22 balls in 30 minutes before nibbling to second slip as England scored 241-4 after winning the toss, Joe Denly making 74, Ben Stokes 67 not out and Rory Burns 52.
Speaking on BBC Test Match Special, Ramprakash said: “I thought Joe didn’t look balanced. He lacked fluency. He lacked his normal intent. I’ve seen this lad play brilliantly on difficult wickets, bowler-friendly wickets when no one else is scoring runs.
“I’d love to know Graham Thorpe’s thoughts on what he’s been away and worked on.
“Today, I’d say, ‘what benefit is this new movement giving you?’”
Ramprakash, who said that he admires Root so much that he uses footage of him batting to show to aspiring coaches on the Level 3 coaching course as a model example of how to play, was taken aback by the technical change.
He added that the beauty of Root’s batting had always been its simplicity and natural rhythm.
“When he walked out (to bat) I thought 7,000 Test runs, he knows his game, England’s best batsman, and there’s a simplicity about the way he plays,” said Ramprakash.
“Today, straight away, first ball, he’s made a back foot movement – not only back but right over to off stump, and I think he took his head slightly with that, so that means his head is slightly back, off centre, and also that his head is falling slightly towards the off-side, that if the ball is full and straight that he’s more likely to fall over to the off-side and lose balance.
“So that’s quite a significant change for a batsman.
“I was surprised to see that.”
Ramprakash, who scored more than 50,000 runs in all cricket in a 25-year career with England, Middlesex and Surrey, added: “Joe Root, normally in his career, bats on middle with his back foot toe on middle stump, and his back foot tends to go straight back and then his front foot is sort of hovering at the point of release, looking to try and get into the full delivery.
“If the ball is full, his foot moves into the ball and his head moves into the ball, and if it’s short the foot presses down, he pushes back off that and can play his cut or his pull, his back foot shots.”
Root spoke prior to the New Zealand series about the work he has been doing at Sheffield Collegiate.
The 28-year-old had an underwhelming Ashes series – 325 runs in 10 innings – and said that he had actually being trying to make sure that he was not getting too off-side of the ball.
“I’ve just been lining things up slightly differently, to get a rhythm back into my batting without it affecting my balance,” he said. “I felt sometimes I was getting a little bit too off-side of the ball and then as though I was trying to fight that.
“When I bat well everything feels very rhythmical and that’s what I am trying to find.
“Also, if I am better aligned, I can access everywhere on the field a lot easier.”
Root was the only member of England’s top-order who failed to reach double figures in an even-stevens start to the two-match series.
On a slow, flat pitch, England were true to their word that they would adopt a more attritional style of batting under new coach Chris Silverwood instead of the more gung-ho method favoured under his predecessor, Trevor Bayliss.
England scored only 121 runs in the first two sessions before Stokes helped them to add 120 in the last session, although the all-rounder was dropped on 63 by Ross Taylor at first slip off Trent Boult.
New Zealand missed several opportunities to take charge although their bowlers stuck to the task in challenging conditions.
England’s careful approach was exemplified by debutant Dom Sibley, who scored 22 from 63 balls in 92 minutes.
However, Sibley did strike his first ball in Test cricket for four – easing Boult to the mid-wicket boundary before, like all those dismissed, falling to a catch behind the stumps.