Root hailed by Key for captaining at 'the most horrendous time to be an England cricketer'

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Joe Root captaining England "at the most horrendous time" for his side in Test cricket is "one of the great sporting achievements", according to new men's managing director Rob Key.

Root succeeded Alastair Cook as red-ball captain in 2017 and resigned last April after a torrid run of one win in 17 Tests, with a 1-0 series defeat to West Indies the final straw.

Yorkshireman Root still delivered remarkable returns with the bat in 2021, despite England's struggles, scoring 1,708 runs in 15 matches, including two double centuries and a further four tons.

Only Pakistan's Mohammad Yousuf (1,788 in 2006) and West Indies legend Viv Richards (1,710 in 1976) have ever managed more in a single calendar year.

Key, tasked with transforming English cricket in his new role, appointed Ben Stokes as the new skipper of the Test side but was quick to credit Root for his efforts during a tumultuous period.

"I remember just thinking: Oh, my God. Joe Root. How well has he done?," Key told Sky Sports. "We obviously know he's had a great year but he has had that year when he was doing everything as well it seemed.

"There was so much put on his shoulders. He was trying to be the ambassador for the England team that he is as a captain, and in a team that was struggling and the way that he was playing and what he was able to do. It's honestly one of the great achievements.

"Statistically it will just look in history as 'He got this amount of runs and he did this and he was this as a captain', but it won't actually say in there, 'Oh, and by the way, it was the most horrendous time to be an England cricketer, where you are under so much pressure and the captain was the lone man doing it all'.

"It's one of the great sporting achievements. And as well for him to then now seem to have somehow parked it all to some degree and he's like, right, what do you need? How do we move on from here? How can I help Ben? We probably don't realise how lucky we are to have him."

Joe Root in 2021
Joe Root in 2021

James Anderson and Stuart Broad have 1,177 Test wickets between them but were surprise omissions for the tour of West Indies, as Root travelled with a new-look side under the interim stewardship of Paul Collingwood.

However, Key and Stokes have both made it clear that England plan to reintroduce the pair for the three-Test series against New Zealand, which starts on June 2 at Lord's.

Key also acknowledged why Broad and Anderson were left out of the squad, even if he would not have done the same thing.

"I don't look at everything as just black or white, I always look at the reason," Key said. "I always thought this as a pundit; if there's logic behind what they're doing to some degree, then fine, I can understand why people are doing it.

"There was no logic to me when England in the World Cup in 2015, dropped Alastair Cook and then brought in Gary Ballance. There's no part of me that can understand why you would do that.

"But there's part of me that can understand with Broad and Anderson away from home, getting on a bit as well when you wanted to try and find out about other people. I can understand that. It doesn't mean that I would have done it – but I've shown now that they've come back."

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