Five challenges for captain Root
How will he approach captaincy?
Nicknamed "craptain" after overseeing a Yorkshire defeat at Lord's in which Middlesex scored 472 for 3 in the fourth innings, Joe Root has little captaincy experience. However, he is close to former England captain (and fellow Sheffield Collegiate alumnus) Michael Vaughan, and might be expected to take a similarly attacking approach to the job. While Root's immediate predecessors, Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss, were regarded as pragmatic leaders, Vaughan had a greater reputation for flair and tactical imagination. Root's wicket-taking intervention in Mumbai last year, after bringing himself on to bowl with Cook off the field, hints at a similar mindset.
Can he maintain his form?
Since being dropped for the final Test of the 2013-14 Ashes, Root has been England's leading batsmen by a distance - his 3639 Test runs almost twice as many as anyone other than Cook. Can he be as prolific while overseeing the team's fortunes? While Cook's overall output was barely affected by the captaincy, it had a debilitating effect on Nasser Hussain, Strauss and, in particular, Vaughan, whose average dropped from 50.98 to 41.44 over five injury-affected years. Root did, however, mark his captaincy debut by making 179 for England Lions in 2013 and can look to three of his current rivals for inspiration: Steven Smith, Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson all average more in charge.
Where will he bat?
Root moved up to No. 3 last year, after Nick Compton was dropped for the second time, and scored a career-best 254 against Pakistan while averaging 52.42 (he had a less-successful stint there in Australia). But the emergence of Haseeb Hameed and Keaton Jennings on England's tour of India could allow Root to drop back down to No. 4 - another problem position that has been occupied by Moeen Ali, Gary Ballance, Ben Duckett and James Vince in recent times, without much success. Wherever he bats, he will want to improve on a rate that has seen him convert only three of his last 17 50-plus scores to a hundred.
Can he get the best out of Stokes?
"I've played a lot of cricket with Ben and he has become a good friend as well as a team-mate." So wrote Root about his new vice-captain in Bringing Home the Ashes, in which he also credits Ben Stokes with helping to lift the mood around English cricket at the start of the 2015 summer, during the pair's counterattacking partnership against New Zealand at Lord's. Root marked Stokes' second-innings hundred in that match with a salute from the balcony - imitating Marlon Samuels' taunt - and both have now reached officer class. Root noted Stokes was capable of some "daft stuff" but he has steadily matured into a major dressing room figure and he will have a key role to play.
Will he be ready for Australia?
Cook's decision to step down six weeks after a disappointing tour of India has given Root a long run into his first assignment. South Africa at Lord's in early July will mark the start of England's new era and Faf du Plessis will be Root's opposite number - rather than Graeme Smith, whose arrival in England preceded the resignations of Hussain, Vaughan and Strauss. Root should be confident of surviving to face West Indies later in the summer, but by then the Ashes will be looming. What is the state of the pace attack? Who is the first-choice spinner? Is the top order settled? Leading the team in Australia is the ultimate challenge for an England captain and the countdown for Root has now begun.
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick