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Joe Root’s resignation is good for everyone, but now the tricky part begins for England

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a few weeks ago, after a Caribbean tour that ended in a desperate defeat in Grenada to leave England with a victory in 17 events, Joe Root seemed determined to continue in as captain, and sure he was the right man for the job.

Root’s public statements weren’t even “I’m going to go away and think about it”, and he seemed to retain the full support of his players, although many outside the camp questioned why he still wanted a job. so ruthless, after so long in the post.

He has now gone and reflected, also spoken to his family and loved ones and made a decision that is not only good for his team, but also for himself. And it got him out the way he deserved – on his own terms.

Root acknowledged that, like his team, he has been jaded by this winter, although he has always sought to remain heartbreaking in public. He spoke of “the toll that was imposed on me and the impact it had on me outside of the game”. At 31, he can now enter the third and final chapter of his career as a senior pro at No.3, first tracking all English batting records and then world records as well. Leaving now gives a better chance that the next period will be his most successful yet.

For the team, new ideas will be welcome. And with a new director of cricket, head coach and likely national selector coming in the next few weeks, a full sweep is worthwhile. It would have been a shame if Root had hung on long enough that one of them had to push him. As it happens, the only person thanking him in the press release was Tom Harrison, a CEO who was emptying his desk. Total upheaval is imminent.

The story will probably be hard on the captain of Root, because of the way it ended: that terrible losing streak and the low lows of the winter in Grenada, Melbourne and Hobart.

And while it’s true that he could be tactically ahead and England were becoming increasingly prone to picking the wrong team, he was a better captain than the past year suggests. There were limits to what he was able to accomplish, with a modest group of players at a difficult time, but he was a great ambassador for the sport, giving his all. England could perhaps find a better cricketing mastermind to lead the team, but there’s a little more to the job than that.

The numbers tell the story of a tumultuous and excessive time: he captained England more than any other man (64 Tests), recorded more wins (27), but also more defeats (26).

Root’s team was slowly shattered by the absurd schedule handed to them before and during the pandemic, and then over the past 14 months they’ve played barometer series against the top three teams in the world: India, away then at home, New Zealand at home, then Australia away. The rest and rotation policy, a decision made above Root, sent the team into a downward spiral. Their opposition did the rest. When the same mistakes were made after a few small steps forward in the Caribbean, it was time to go.

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The pandemic must be recognized in any judgment of the Captaincy of Root. So did the fact that he was in charge at a time when English cricket pushed the game of the white ball more than ever before.

It’s also a cruel irony that Root, perhaps England’s greatest batting player of all time, was captain at a time when England batting in general is in deep unease. The hitters came and went, but the slumps continued. If Root failed, England fans had to watch through their hands, behind the couch.

The tricky part starts now. There is no obvious candidate to lead the Test team against New Zealand next month. What seems clear is that it’s time to stop seeing captaincy as a long-term job. England only need the right man for the job in their next run, at most next summer. Choose the best team and see how things develop.

Root’s vice-captain was Ben Stokes, who is rightfully the frontrunner for the role. That would be a huge ask for an all-format all-rounder with a recent history of injuries, mental health issues and, of course, poor off-court discipline.

But Stokes is fully committed to Test cricket and reminisced about his focus and better fitness in the Caribbean. If handled well, which could mean a return to No. 6, his preferred batting position, with the right people around him, he is the best candidate available.

Action images via Reuters

The others aren’t on the team, and even in these weird times, that’s too much of a punt. It seems like a faux pas not to have taken a county captain with Testing experience like Rory Burns, James Vince or Sam Billings to the Caribbean with half an eye on the future, but it’s always been a team designed to strengthen Root’s captaincy, rather than threaten it.

It’s not impossible that one of this group could be Stokes’ vice-captain this summer; the same could be said of Zak Crawley, who has the feeling of a future captain, even if his stick doesn’t always make it obvious. Jonny Bairstow and even Jos Buttler are other candidates for this role.

It would be naive in the extreme to think that a new captain will soon change England’s fortunes. But for the love of Root and England, it’s worth a try.


standard Sport

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