When Alastair Cook announced he was stepping down from the England captaincy after a painful winter in India, it seemed only a matter of time before his vice-captain Joe Root would be appointed as his successor. Brief mentions were given to Stuart Broad and Ben Stokes, but inevitably England’s best batsmen was revealed as the next man to carry the mantle. It is a role that has seen many batsmen suffer personal drops in form, a worrying thought when one considers how pivotal Root’s runs are, but he is sure to approach the job with his characteristic exuberance.
Making his England debut at the tender age of 21 in 2012, Root immediately made his mark as he top scored in his first test match, seeing England home to secure a historic win on Indian soil. Solid without excelling, Root was moved up and down the batting order in the ensuing months, culminating in him being dropped for the final Ashes test in Australia in the 2013-14 series which marked one of very few low points in his career. He roared back into form in the summer of 2014 though, making a double hundred against Sri Lanka, before making 154* against India as he teamed up with Jimmy Anderson for a world record 10th wicket stand. The Yorkshireman hasn’t looked back since, conquering all before him and enjoying spells at the top of the ICC batting rankings. His one main weakness is a repeated failure to convert scores of 70-80 into big hundreds but as problems go, it is not the worst one to have.
While Root’s batting capabilities are unquestionable, the same cannot perhaps be said for his captaining prowess. Alastair Cook, like many England captains before him, was primed for the position from an early age as he led English sides through the age groups and fine-tuned his captaincy. Root has had no such experience, captaining sides on only a handful of occasions, one infamous occasion leading to him being nicknamed ‘Craptain’. Given the Yorkshire captaincy for the first time in 2014, Root oversaw an ignominious defeat as Middlesex comfortably chased down the target of 473 in the fourth innings, a result that broke many records as Yorkshire suffered their only loss of the season. It was certainly not the greatest audition for a man with future ambitions of leadership. Andrew Strauss clearly saw something amongst the wreckage, making Root vice-captain in 2015 and in doing so providing a clear indication from the England hierarchy that they saw their star man as the future captain. That one match was quite rightly not going to stall the progress of a player destined for the very top.
Root’s batting capabilities are unquestionable
Root now has a considerable amount of time to seek any advice he feels he needs and to mull over some key decisions, with England’s next foray into the Test scene not taking place before the arrival of South Africa in early July. Along with his vice captain Ben Stokes, he will work on an identity for his side, with much already being made about how he wants his side to play:
“I’d like to be a captain that wins, tough to play against, and like to hope we’ll play cricket that is enjoyable to watch. That is something that excites me. It should be entertaining Test cricket and that’s something I want to get across to the team and the people watching.”
Whether Root will be able to transfer this aggressive style of cricket from the drawing board to the field will be crucial for England’s success. With a trip Down Under for an away Ashes series following the South Africa match-up in the summer, England’s new captain will be up against it to get off to a winning start and will have no time to fine tune on the field of play. It will be a case of learning on the job for Root and Stokes, but backed up by an young group of equally aggressive and ferocious competitors, it could be the fresh start that England need to summon up the Test magic that has recently alluded them. Root’s emphasis on entertaining people is an important one, with the 2005 Ashes winning team the last England cricketing side to really capture the hearts of the public. With an exciting team and big series’ lying in wait, Root has a chance to lead his side back to the centre of the English sporting scene.