England news February 13, 2017

Five challenges for captain Root

With Joe Root confirmed as Alastair Cook's successor, we look at some of the areas he will have to focus on
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Root's England captaincy to do list

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.

Ben Stokes and Joe Root are now in charge of England's Test fortunes © Getty Images

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • properzing on February 15, 2017, 17:45 GMT

    Analyst_Pisupati: How are England behind SA when they beat SA on their home turf barely more than 12 months ago?

  • 200ondebut on February 15, 2017, 17:26 GMT

    Why oh why oh why is the first thing that comes out of a Journos mouth when we get a new captain who is a batsman "oh it could affect his form".

    There is no evidence to support such theories - other than the incestuous amplification from those who don't know anything about cricket.

    Please stop making such stupid comments - if you don't we'll be stuck having to listen to numpty's trying to impress everyone with their cricket knowledge by spewing out this drivel.

  • Stephena on February 14, 2017, 19:01 GMT

    @sgomes, I can say the same thing about India and England

  • Tests-are-best.Bounderno:6 on February 14, 2017, 11:23 GMT

    It will be very interesting to see who's in and out of the England team at Lord's for the first Test of the summer, Joe Root's first at the helm. There is potential for changes to be made at the start of the new leadership, particularly in the attack and it may well be time to leave out Jimmy Anderson and bring in Mark Wood if fit; Anderson looked a spent force in India and although he is likely to perform better on home wickets the selectors should be forward looking to The Ashes next winter. And there is still no Test class spinner pressing Moeen Ali for a place although we must hope that Somerset's Jack Leach performs well early on and is given a chance. Exciting times!

  • notimeforcricket on February 14, 2017, 6:26 GMT

    bowling is the issue. if they are smart, the selectors should have managed a steady upper order. I hope that Hameed and Jennings make it. To be honest, i would be tempted to bat Cook at 3, followed by Root. that is the top 4 in whatever order, of course. this then gives options. if a credible no. 5 emerges (Bell, Westley, Ballance, Duckett etc - whoever seems to be putting their hand up depending on runs made), all the better. If not, they can bat Bairstow, Ali, Stokes etc around there and bring in a youngster in the lower middle order with a view to grooming him for later. the big issue is the bowling. Anderson and Broad are on their last legs. Woakes seems to be great in England but not yet sure about elsewhere. Hopefully Leach comes through as a true spin option. many questions on the bowling front though. risk is that Stokes is bowled into the ground as flintoff was due to lack of strong alternatives

  • SnGomes on February 14, 2017, 6:25 GMT

    England will not do an Aus and should beat the overconfident South Africans missing Devilliers in tests. Only a Steyn special can stop them. They should also do very well in the Ashes. That will be closely fought and will not be one sided. I have seen enough of South African cricket over the years to be reasonably sure to make such predictions. Even NZ have every chance to beat this SA team next month.

  • Camberwellcarrot1979 on February 14, 2017, 5:21 GMT

    Cook, Hameed, Jennings, Root, Westley, Bairstow, Stokes, Ali, Woakes, Broad, Anderson. I don't really see the point of playing another quick as 4 should be fine plus Ali. I do think Leach needs a go at some point in the summer to see if he can cut the mustard and if he can then Ali might struggle. I like Ali and he has the runs in the last year or so but England do need more consistency from their spinner. I hope he has a good summer and gets wickets but if not, we do need a plan B. Also, I hope Jennings does well, although I do have reservations; if he doesn't I would be tempted to bring Bell back for a last hurrah and the lack of alternatives make his record seem more appealing. Ball/Finn/Roland Jones to bubble under this summer and Overton might be a temptation in Australia due to his pace, although he'll need to work on his radar.

  • Analyst_pisupati on February 14, 2017, 4:56 GMT

    We can say so many things but definitely England is behind SA, India and Australia. India is no pushover in England with Yadav, Shami, Ishanth and Kumar capable of bowling god pace and swing the ball. Vijay, Rahul, Pujara, Kohli and Rahane should be the mainstay of batting. As long as we don't tempt to play Rohit, Dhavan, Raina and Yuvraj in test matches, particularly outside India- India has always a chance. For God sake, leet these 4 out of test matches, not withstanding the friendship between Kohli and Rohit. Let Rohit play in IPL and score those runs. Please don't enter into test cricket.

  • amit_jha11 on February 14, 2017, 4:38 GMT

    " 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. "

    Haha ! Epic writing Alan :) Best of luck to Root who will begin his captaincy with best tourist of world - Saffers !

  • chitti_cricket on February 14, 2017, 2:23 GMT

    I wish all the best to Joe Root and my hearty good wishes to Cook in his future only as an exceptional batting maestro in current world cricket. As stated by the writer Root has all qualities in him to be successor of Cook but only worry is he should not loose his form and captaincy pressure some times creeps in weird thought process in mind where by some players loose their focus. I sincerely hope that doesn't happen to him as I like his style of batting and bowling (yes bowling too) and he is one of the top ranked and would be legends of cricket. Other than the things writer added in his write up I think he should develop few other talents in this team like Hameed etc by giving them confidence and probably he may end up building his own team like Vaughan in the pursuit of greatness. Vaughn built his own 2005 ashes winning team and was an excellent tactical genius on the field. Hope that gets in Root too cause for world cricket to be in good shape we need good English cricket.

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