Former Ashes winner Graeme Swann believes the burden of captaincy has impacted Joe Root’s game - but does not want him sacked.
Root was made captain in February 2017 and has since overseen five Test series victories and four series defeats.
Losing to Australia at Old Trafford on Sunday, leaving England 2-1 down going into the final Test, means that he will have failed to win the Ashes as skipper in two attempts.
He has only passed 50 in three of his eight innings so far this series, failing to record a century, while his fellow batsmen - with the exception of Ben Stokes - have also struggled.
And Swann says Root’s split focus has negatively impacted his batting.
“Let him bat four, let someone else be the captain. But do not sack him,” Swann exclusively told Yahoo Sport UK.
“He is not a bad captain, his batsmen haven’t scored any runs for him, he’s not scored as many because he’s worried about the team and he’s got the burden of captaincy.
“I said it at the time when he was made captain, it will thwart Joe. He can’t be the cheeky larrikin type of player that everyone adored and he took into his batting.
“As soon as he tried to be grown up and serious and be a leader and fight fire with fire, it didn’t suit him. His output isn’t the same.
“If you’ve got Lionel Messi in your team, you don’t play him at centre-back. Which is basically what Joe batting three is. He doesn’t like it, he’s not at good there and yet they’re making him do it.
“But he should not be sacked for his captaincy efforts in this Ashes. It’s not the captaincy that’s lost it, it’s lack of runs.”
Root has come under-fire throughout the series, with the Yorkshireman dismissed first ball by a brilliant Pat Cummins delivery in the second innings in Manchester.
His failings were exacerbated by England’s poor performance with the bat in the four Tests to date - with a solo Ben Stokes effort responsible for their only victory to date.
It has been a trying summer for Root’s men - with the lows of being bowled out for 67 and 85 by Australia and Test newcomers Ireland respectively.
Peculiarly, they won both those matches - but the embarrassing tallies were symptomatic of a greater problem; a weak top order and confused middle order.
But Swann reckons the Test team has the right pieces to fit the jigsaw.
“It’s jumbled thinking in the Test team. It’s a brilliant team on paper, but it has not been set up the right way,” the 40-year-old added. “They need to put the right men in the right position.
“The one day team has got a brilliant, clear ethos and focus with the way they play the game. Be aggressive, be on the front foot and are led brilliantly by Eoin Morgan - because he’s been given carte blanche to do that after that disastrous World Cup in 2015 and it paid off with a World Cup win (in 2019).
“The Test team doesn’t have the same identity, the same clear thinking. It’s a bit muddled.
“The batting has not got the six world class player in the six best positions that we need to be consistently good for Test match cricket.”
Jason Roy’s failures at the top of the order appear to be a product of the muddled thinking which Swann references.
The explosive one-day opener helped propel England to World Cup success in July, when his fine form led to calls for his inclusion in the Test side.
As a result, his technique was ruthlessly exposed by a powerful Australian attack, but Swann has sympathy for the 29-year-old Surrey man and believes there can still be a role for him.
“Roy is not a Test opening batsman,” Swann said, who added Roy could be used as a wildcard opener going forward.
“He was expected to do a miracle and repeat the wonders he performed in the World Cup, against the red ball, when he doesn’t open regularly in County Cricket.
“That one day team was belligerent, aggressive and Roy was like the leader. He missed a game and they lost and he came back and they won.
“I said at the time - it’s bonkers to pick someone in a completely different format against a ball that is chalk and cheese.
“If you don’t know anything about cricket, of course it’s the simple solution. If you know about it, how is he expected to do it? I feel sorry for him.”
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