Joe Root © Getty Images
Alastair Cook (left) may be the captain of the side, but Root is the face of New England © Getty Images

Joe Root‘s excellent century in the fourth Ashes 2015 Test propelled him past both Steve Smith and AB de Villiers to the top of the ICC Test rankings for batsmen. Root has done well in almost every match of the series, with scores of 134 and 60 at Cardiff, 1 and 17 at Lord’s, 63 and 38* at Edgbaston, and 130 at Trent Bridge. In fact the only match in which he failed was the debacle at Lord’s, but Root and England bounced back beautifully from that defeat. Shiamak Unwalla feels that in many ways Root is at the heart of England’s resurgence. READ: Joe Root is No.1 Test batsman following excellent performances in Ashes 2015

Some cricketers are mercurial mavericks who are adored by their diehard fans alone, and despised by everyone else. They are never really “a part of the team” and that usually reflects in the team dynamic. Shoaib Akhtar and Kevin Pietersen are two such divisive forces, whose immense talent was not enough to guarantee their spot in the team. At the slightest hint of poor form, they were removed from the set-up, and either had to slog their way back or continue to await their fate. READ: Ashes 2015, 4th Test at Trent Bridge: Statistical report

And then there are those players who are immediately and immensely popular with their teammates and as a result with the fans as well. It could be for any number of reasons; Doug Bollinger did it by being blissfully, brazenly clumsy; Brendon McCullum does it by rallying the team around him; Chris Gayle does it by just being Chris Gayle. It is a role Joe Root slips into for England. READ: Joe Root says pain of being dropped following Ashes 2013-14 helped him rise to top of ICC Test rankings

It is easy to see why Root such a well-liked cricketer. He has a charm and mischievous innocence about him that made Andrew Flintoff such a hit among both his teammates and the masses. Few people ever had a grouse against Freddie, and fewer still would say a bad word about Root (David Warner is perhaps an exception). Freddie was the heart and soul of the England side for a large chunk of his career. It seems like Root has a similar standing both in the team and with the fans. It helps that Root is indispensable to the side. He has been England’s best batsman for some time now, and barring a major catastrophe could well end up among England’s top five run-scorers of all time. READ: Joe Root, Stuart Broad, James Anderson major beneficiaries in new ICC Test rankings

With his place in the side guaranteed, Root has the freedom to be himself. He is often jovial and enthusiastic, he can lift the side with his fielding, and it is clear that he thoroughly enjoys his cricket. Whenever a wicket falls, he is often among the most gleeful on the field. He is quick to appreciate a good effort from a teammate. He has been known to smile (quite charmingly) in the face of an opposition fast bowler’s attempted sledge. READ: Recasting Game of Thrones with cricketers

Examples of Root enjoying himself are plentiful, and there is no denying his immense popularity either. Sky Sports‘ catchy variation on ‘We didn’t start the fire’ featured a host of former cricketers speaking out lyrics of the song. There was only one contemporary cricketer: Root. After the fourth Test at Trent Bridge, Root did an impression of Bob Willis (in character wearing a mask) that again showed his mischievous side. READ: VIDEO: Joe Root mimics Bob Willis

Root has become one of the finest batsmen in the world, and currently sits atop the ICC Test rankings. His contribution to England’s success is most certainly quantifiable in that respect. When he does well with the bat, England tend to do well as a team; but what Root offers to the side goes beyond the runs he scores. He is the man who lights up the mood and lifts his teammates. Alastair Cook may be the captain of the side, but Root is the face of New England, in Test cricket. He makes the team a likeable one, and he is at the heart of the remarkable resurgence they have shown in recent times. READ: England wasting Joe Root at No. 5

(Shiamak Unwalla, a reporter with CricketCountry, is a self-confessed Sci-Fi geek who loves cricket more than cricketers. His Twitter handle is @ShiamakUnwalla)