'I average more with reverse-lap than forward defence' - Root opens up on newfound psyche in 'Bazball' era
Joe Root firmed up his inclination to reverse-lap or scoop the pacers over the wicketkeeper and slip cordon is a result of him gradually imbibing and embracing the 'Bazball' ideology. The modern-day batting master tends to raise eyebrows every time he shuffles across the crease and executes the high-risk stroke, but he says it's a carefully thought-out response to the indecisive length.
In his understated humour, the elegant right-hander says he has learnt he averages higher with the reverse-lap than his forward defence, having earlier stood prone to the moving ball when it landed in that in-between area from the seamers, especially on responsive pitches.
Under coach Brendon McCullum's regime, however, the 32-year-old experienced head has realised the best means to force the bowler off this length is to disturb him with a boundary or a six hit in the traditionally uncharted territory.
There have been occasions where this stroke has failed Joe Root. But the batter is weighing days it hasn't, inspiring greater faith in the method he practises extensively in the nets to try and almost make it an instinctive shot to the good length ball.
Joe Root opens up on infamous reverse-lap in 'Bazball' era
"The hardest thing to hone with that shot was being terrified of getting it wrong and looking stupid in a Test match," Root told ESPNcricinfo. "Almost the bravery of just saying, 'I've got to trust everything I've been practising and just give myself the best chance of doing it by staying in the shot'."
"The other hardest thing was playing it the next time having got out in Mount Maunganui. I'm sure there were people out there giving me pelters. 'Imagine doing that on day one of a Test match?!' At the same time, I think I average near enough 100 with that shot. I average more with that than with the forward defence, and I've got out with that plenty of times! What's the difference, really? I get more runs from the other one."
Root was heavily criticised for opting to play the adventurous stroke on the first ball of the critical Day 3 of the opening Test in recent Ashes 2023. But the great batter stressed what is perceived as a risky option is in fact in his mind the safest way to ruffle the opposition feathers and get them to err with their lengths.
"It's the change in mentality. What you perceive as risk and what you perceive as failure. Just because someone thinks it's risky doesn't necessarily mean it is. I played that shot at The Oval against Mitch Marsh. I hit that [for six] and he tries to bowl a leg-stump yorker, he misses and it goes down to fine leg for four. He doesn't bowl the next over, someone else has to come back."
"They are calculated ways of manipulating the game that might look unusual in a Test setting but it's just managing risk in a different mindset," he added.