Root’s England facing questions over future

Published March 29, 2022
This image shows Joe Root. — AFP
This image shows Joe Root. — AFP

LONDON: The head coach is gone. The director of the team is gone. The captain might go soon after just one win in 17 Tests over the past 14 months.

The English cricket team is in disarray, with what can only be described as its winter of discontent capped by a 10-wicket loss to the West Indies on Sunday that sealed a fifth straight series defeat. That came after a 4-0 thrashing by Australia Down Under in the Ashes.A red-ball reset as it has been branded by the England and Wales Cricket Board is underway, apparently. It’s clearly needed given the teams hasty decline in a format that was once king in the English game but now might be something an afterthought given the riches that lie in white-ball cricket.

But where does the ECB start? There’s so much wrong with the English Test team that surely more pain is coming this summer, when New Zealand and South Africa visit for three-match series either side of India returning to complete a five-match series they led 2-1 last year before the final Test was postponed for coronavirus-related reasons.

Former captain Kevin Pietersen said the England set-up “stinks”, with Geoffrey Boycott accusing the team of going “nowhere” after their latest humiliating defeat.

England captain Joe Root said on Sunday he had no intention of stepping down as skipper, with team director Ashley Giles and coach Chris Silverwood sacked following the Ashes debacle.

And Pietersen, England’s captain from 2008 to 2009, insisted on Monday the fundamental issue was the ability of the squad available to Root, who has skippered the Test side on a record 64 occasions, rather than his much-criticised tactics in the field.

“As a captain you are only as good as your players,” Pietersen told Talk Sport radio.

“Forget Joe Root, it is about the players. Who is going to do a better job with the calibre of player that is playing Test cricket for England? It is not Joe Root’s fault. Who are you going to pick?”

Pietersen, 41, added: “When Jack Leach and Ben Stokes put that partnership together at Headingley [in the Ashes] three years ago, Stokes played the innings of his life — I said then Leach is not good enough.

“He’s not a good enough spinner. And who is second in line, Dom Bess? Are you joking? Don’t point fingers at Root, understand the set-up. The set-up stinks.”

Ben Stokes, currently England’s vice captain and a close friend of Root, would appear to be the obvious successor as skipper.

But the 41-year-old Pietersen, a gifted batsman who scored 23 hundreds in 104 Tests, insisted a change of captain would mean little if the team kept suffering top-order collapses.

“How is he [Stokes] going to do any better than Joe Root?... How are you going to get these guys scoring runs against the best bowlers in the world?

“Have you seen what’s coming? New Zealand, India, South Africa. How are you going to get these guys scoring 200s? Number one, two, three, four and five, how are you going to get them scoring 200s when they can’t bat?”

Boycott, another former captain said England, now bottom of the World Test Championship table, were “going nowhere”.

“They need a rocket up the backside from a new head coach with some fresh ideas,” Boycott wrote in his Daily Telegraph column.

“Doing nothing is not an option. Nothing is working,” added Boycott, one of England’s all-time great opening batsmen, who did not spare Root, a fellow Yorkshireman, as he called for a “shake-up” in personnel.

“The captain, Joe Root, is incapable of lifting these players,” Boycott insisted. “England are not losing because they are unlucky. They lose because they just aren’t good enough.”

Former England captain Michael Atherton said Root should step down.

“As was obvious to anyone who was in Australia, and should have been obvious to anyone who wasn’t, Root has reached the end of the road as captain,” Atherton wrote in The Times.

“A change will not cure all ills — this is a poor team and England are paying the price for the neglect of the first-class game — but there simply comes a time when a captain has nothing new to say, no new methods of motivating his players and a different voice or different style is required.

“He had reached that point at the end of the Ashes and nothing has changed.”

Another former skipper, Nasser Hussain, said it was time for a change.

“The England captaincy was the best job in the world and it is not one you keep doing simply because there is a perception no one else is capable of taking over,” Hussain wrote in the Daily Mail.

“We’re talking about the England captaincy. It is too important for that.”

Michael Vaughan said England would lose nothing by replacing Root as captain.

“What are we going to miss? We are not going to miss his runs because he will keep scoring those,” the former skipper wrote in The Telegraph.

“Are we going to miss his tactics in the middle? No.”

Published in Dawn, March 29th, 2022

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