Joe Root to assess future after Ashes as Ben Stokes says no wish to be captain

Published January 4, 2022
England's captain Joe Root wearing a face mask arrives with teammates for a training session at the Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney, Australia, January 4. — AFP
England's captain Joe Root wearing a face mask arrives with teammates for a training session at the Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney, Australia, January 4. — AFP

SYDNEY: Joe Root said Monday that he has “questions to answer” and will assess his future as England captain after the losing Ashes tour, as Ben Stokes insisted he has no ambition to take over.

Root will become his country’s longest-serving Test skipper at the fourth Test in Sydney on Wednesday, surpassing predecessor Alastair Cook’s 59 matches in charge.

But he is under pressure after three consecutive heavy defeats to Australia with some pundits, including Ricky Ponting and Geoff Boycott, scathing about his captaincy.

“Obviously it’s been very challenging and we’ve had a lot to deal with, not just on the field but off it, and we are just trying to manage it as best we can,” the 31-year-old Root said of the calamitous tour.

“I’ll look at my future beyond this tour at the end of it,” he added. “I think there are questions for me to answer. I don’t think, as a distraction around the group, it should be something I’m wasting energy on now.

“I need to make sure I throw everything I can into these next two games. I owe that to this team and the players. That will give us the best chance of getting the results that we desire.”

There are few obvious candidates to replace him with vice-captain Stokes at the top of the pile, a move championed by former captain Mike Atherton, among others.

But the 30-year-old star all-rounder said that he was not interested and backed Root.

“I’ve never really had an ambition to be a captain,” he was quoted as saying by the BBC. “Captaincy is more than about setting fields, picking the team, making decisions out there in the middle. A captain is someone you want to go out and play for. Joe Root is someone I always want to play for.”

Stokes has led England once previously, a Test defeat by West Indies in 2020 when Root was on paternity leave. He said he doesn’t believe Root is ready to give up the role.

“I don’t sense that at all with Joe,” he said. “He’s brought this team a long way. He’s done some great things. Obviously, this series hasn’t gone too well, not from a captaincy point of view but from a team and results point of view. It’s totally Joe’s decision.”

Atherton is among those who believes Root’s time is almost up and that Stokes could do the job but former England captain Michael Vaughan backed Root to guide England back from the brink.

“If Joe [Root] can get a victory it will give him a clear insight into what this team needs to do to be successful,” Vaughan wrote in a column for The Telegraph. “I hope he carries on.

“I can’t see anyone else doing the job in the circumstances they are in at the moment. It is best if he carries on and lays the foundation for the cricket England need to play across the world. But if he gets a win or two it must not paper over the cracks. Changes still need to happen.”

Root said England should learn from their hosts on how to handle conditions in Australia.

“We’ve been shown firsthand by Australia how to go and do that in these conditions. It’s our opportunity now to do it to ourselves,” he said.

“Of course we have to do it in our own way. We can’t just try and be something that we’re not, but we have to manage that better than we have done so far and take the chances.”

CA CHIEF HOCKLEY TESTS POSITIVE FOR COVID-19

SYDNEY: Cricket Australia chief Nick Hockley on Monday became the latest person to contract Covid-19 during the Ashes series against England.

Hockley, who is fully vaccinated, developed mild symptoms and immediately got tested and isolated, with a positive PCR result confirmed.

Hockley has had no direct contact with either the Australian or England squads, in line with Cricket Australia’s biosecurity protocols for the tour.

Australian batsman Travis Head tested positive last week and has been ruled out of the fourth Ashes Test starting in Sydney on Wednesday, with Usman Khawaja expected to replace him.

Opener Marcus Harris, who was a close contact of Head, was kept away from a charter flight moving the team to Sydney from Melbourne on Friday as a precaution.

It meant he and standby players Mitchell Marsh and Josh Inglis had to drive themselves the nearly 900 kilometres (600 miles) between the two cities to join the squad.

The England camp have also been hit hard over the past week, registering at least seven positive cases among support staff and family members.

They reportedly include coach Chris Silverwood, fast bowling coach Jon Lewis, spin coach Jeetan Patel and strength and conditioning boss Darren Veness.

Published in Dawn, January 4th, 2022

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