‘Form of my life still to come’: Joe Root reaches No 1 but insists he can improve

Joe Root will go into the fourth Test of an enthralling series against India at the Oval on Thursday as the world’s No 1 batsman. The International Cricket Council’s latest update confirmed his stunning run of form in 2021 has carried him to the top of the rankings for the first time since 2015, 15 months before he succeeded Alastair Cook as the England captain.

With two matches to play Root is averaging 126.75 in five innings against India, with three centuries, and a year of individual excellence that started with 426 runs in four innings in Sri Lanka continues to improve. The 30-year-old denied his new status represents the pinnacle of his career, saying “the form of my life is still to come”.

“It’s a nice thing to hear,” he said after pushing Kane Williamson to second in the rankings, “but my main focus is to try to keep scoring runs in this series and get us across the line.

“As nice as it is there’s still so much hard work to do and the focus doesn’t change, it’s all about trying to continue getting better, continue scoring runs and hopefully winning Test matches. It’s not something that I have as a goal or a main focus in what I’m trying to do. I’m proud to hear I’ve achieved that and it would be nice to stay there now.”

Only once in the series has Root failed to score at least a half-century and even then his 33 was England’s highest score in their calamitous second-innings collapse at Lord’s. “I certainly feel very good at the minute and I have to stay focused and diligent in my preparation and in the work I do around games to give myself the best chance to bang out big scores,” he added.

Root’s success has inevitably been the subject of much discussion in the tourists’ dressing room with India’s bowling coach, Bharat Arun, saying “we have given him pretty fast starts” and promising to “look deep into those areas and look to stem those”.

India have added Prasidh Krishna, a 6ft 2in right-arm seamer, to their squad but Arun played down the chances of the 25-year-old making a Test debut, saying he was “a precautionary inclusion” as they assess the fitness of more established bowlers.