sport news Joe Root's legacy as England captain and batsman will be decided one way or the ...

England's cricketers have flown to Sri Lanka to begin one of the busiest years in their history – a year in which, pandemics permitting, Joe Root's legacy as both captain and batsman seems certain to be decided one way or the other.

Root turned 30 on Wednesday. In theory, it is a prime age for both roles, the moment at which, in cricket, maturity is officially conferred. Yet he has already racked up numbers that place him in the top bracket of the English game.

His 44 Tests in charge have produced 23 victories, a winning percentage (52) bettered among England captains over at least 20 games only by Mike Brearley. And he is closing in on 8,000 runs, made at an average (47.99) higher than any of the six England batsmen with more.

Root is closing in on 8,000 runs as an England batsman

His 44 Tests in charge have produced 23 victories, with a winning percentage of 52 per cent

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Joe Root's legacy as England batsman and captain will be defined over the next 12 months

He has already racked up numbers that place him in the top bracket of the English game

He has already racked up numbers that place him in the top bracket of the English game

On the surface, then, Root has the chance to transform an already very good career into a great one – starting with two January Tests in Galle, taking in nine Tests against the powerful Indians (four away, five at home), and concluding with the Ashes in Australia.

As if he needs reminding, his last trip there ended with a 4-0 hammering and Root retiring with sickness at Sydney. Unfinished business does not come close to describing what he will feel when hostilities recommence at Brisbane in November.

Amid all the variables, though, one thing is clear: unless Root elbows his way back into the elite group once known as the Fab Four, comprising New Zealand's Kane Williamson, India's Virat Kohli and Australia's Steve Smith – currently first, second and third in the Test rankings – England will struggle to emerge unscathed from a brutal fixture list.

Root now sits ninth in those rankings, one place behind Ben Stokes – a reflection of the downturn in his batting since he assumed the captaincy from Alastair Cook in 2017.

Kohli also went a calendar year without a century

Steve Smith has struggled so far this winter for Australia

But he has clearly fallen out of the elite group of Virat Kohli (left) and Steve Smith

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