Exclusive: Joe Root poised to remain England's Test captain, overseeing overhaul after Ashes defeat

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Joe Root of England speaks to media during day five of the Fourth Test Match in the Ashes series between Australia and England at Sydney Cricket Ground on January 09, 2022 in Sydney, Australia - Exclusive: Joe Root poised to remain England's Test captain, overseeing overhaul after Ashes defeat - GETTY IMAGES
Joe Root of England speaks to media during day five of the Fourth Test Match in the Ashes series between Australia and England at Sydney Cricket Ground on January 09, 2022 in Sydney, Australia - Exclusive: Joe Root poised to remain England's Test captain, overseeing overhaul after Ashes defeat - GETTY IMAGES

Joe Root is poised to remain as England Test captain and oversee an overhaul of the team in the wake of their Ashes series defeat in Australia.

Root is unlikely to confirm his future this week before the fifth Test in Hobart and will wait until he goes home and spends time away from the group before announcing his final decision but believes he still has the energy to rebuild England’s Test cricket.

This is Root's third Ashes series without a victory and he has looked drained at times in Australia. He has made tactical errors but there is a distinct lack of candidates to replace him, with Ben Stokes the only viable alternative.

Stokes, however, is a highly-prized IPL player and with the first Test against New Zealand at the start of June likely to clash with the IPL knockout stages, it would be difficult to make him captain.

England need a Test captain totally dedicated to the role - and red-ball cricket. Root has led England 60 times, more than any other cricketer, and this series was seen as a natural break, especially if England lost badly.

But Root recognises it is his responsibility to groom a successor and hopes the England & Wales Cricket Board will now listen to his ideas for changes to the domestic structure which will include using the Kookaburra ball and producing better pitches for four-day cricket.

England will begin preparations for the final Test in Hobart on Wednesday with Stokes and Jonny Bairstow expected to play despite injuries suffered during the Sydney Test.

Rory Burns could also come in for Haseeb Hameed as the change at the top of the order. Sam Billings is in line to make his Test debut as wicket-keeper with Ollie Robinson also set for a return to the side, possibly at the expense of James Anderson who looked to be flagging in the second innings of the Sydney Test having played three matches in succession.

 England's Rory Burns during a nets session at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne. Picture date: Wednesday December 29, 2021. - PA
England's Rory Burns during a nets session at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne. Picture date: Wednesday December 29, 2021. - PA

Former England captain Michael Vaughan believes Root may have to call time on Anderson's international career to progress the team.

Writing in his Telegraph Sport column, he said: "England cannot move on, be a world force with Anderson at the helm. I love watching Jimmy bowl. He is a poet with the ball in hand. He could still be England’s best bowler for another two years.

"Just because you can still perform does not mean you should keep going on and on. The team has to evolve. It is not about sacking Jimmy. It is about what is right for English cricket."

The big issues facing Root

by Ben Bloom

Sort the opening batsmen

England's opening partnerships in this Ashes have been a pitiful 0, 23, 7, 4, 4, 7, 22 and 46. Having already tried two different pairings in Rory Burns and Haseeb Hameed, followed by Hameed and Zak Crawley, they now look likely to go with Burns and Crawley for the final Test. Despite Crawley's fine 77 in Sydney, there remains significant question marks over all three men, with none of them assured of their place. England have employed 10 different opening batsmen since Alastair Cook's retirement and the only one to average more than 34 in that position is... Jack Leach.

Commit to a wicketkeeper

There is a general consensus that Ben Foakes is the finest gloveman in English cricket, yet due to circumstance and misfortune he has played just eight Tests for his country. However, he now appears in line for the role in the upcoming West Indies series. Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow average 30 and 37 respectively in Tests as wicketkeepers, but Buttler may well step away from red-ball cricket after a difficult Ashes and Bairstow is more likely to continue solely as a batsman. The last remaining unknown comes in the form of Sam Billings, who may well take the gloves for the final Ashes Test.

Resolve futures of Anderson and Broad

James Anderson and Stuart Broad are indisputably two of the greatest cricketers England has ever produced and two of the finest pace bowlers in Test history. What is more contentious is whether they should still be going. Over the last five years, Anderson has taken 173 wickets at 21, and Broad 163 wickets at 26. Anderson also tops the England bowling averages in this Ashes, with Broad not far behind. But their ages - 39 and 35 - raise questions of whether their continued inclusion is an impediment to any new era Root might attempt to usher in.

Work out how to use spin

Attempting to succeed as an English spinner is never the easiest of tasks, brought up on pitches and in a climate that encourages seam. Root has regularly come under fire for seemingly not showing ultimate faith in his spinners and, either by design or inadvertently, encouraging them to bowl primarily as defensive options. For all his troubles with the bat, Mooen Ali fared best of the spinners under Root's captaincy, taking 97 wickets at 31, while Jack Leach and Dom Bess follow closely behind on bowling averages.

Groom a successor

Even if Root, who understandably looks increasingly jaded with each passing day in Australia, wanted to relinquish the captaincy, the lack of alternatives gives him little choice but to carry on. Ben Stokes is the only viable option, but is a three-format player, a prized IPL asset, and has only just returned from a mental-health break. The hunt now begins for a successor. Rory Burns and Jos Buttler were options, but their futures in the team are uncertain. Perhaps England and Root will look outside the current Test side to someone like Sam Billings or Tom Abell.

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