England news February 15, 2017

Root looks to channel Kohli and Smith


Like many before him, Joe Root was plunged into muck the moment he took the England captaincy.

Unlike his predecessors, Root's issues were much more tangible and resolvable. He was changing his new son's nappy when he took the call from Andrew Strauss offering him the job. Others inheriting the role would have loved such easily solved problems.

For Root inherits a more harmonious environment than the majority of his 79 predecessors; certainly the recent ones. There are no rivals slighted in their ambition for the captaincy, no senior players with a damaging relationship with the coach or team-mates and no obvious cliques in the dressing room. Yes, there are some concerns about an ageing James Anderson and a brittle batting line-up, but it is a trifle compared to the problems facing Strauss in 2009 or Alastair Cook in 2012.

As Strauss put it: "We're in a good place. Often when there is a change of leader it's at a time of crisis one way or another. Certainly when England captains have resigned in the past it's often been on the back of times when the team or they are in turmoil and we are not in that place at all.

"It's fantastic that Alastair has been able to go out on his own terms and that Joe and Alastair have a really close relationship and that Alastair will continue playing."

Instead Root inherits, in his words, "a great blend of experience and raw talent" and "a core group that have played 20-30 games.

"I'm very lucky to have inherited an exciting team who are ready to take some more responsibility," he said.

With six months to plan and plot before England's Test program resumes, Root is sensibly non-committal about many details. He hasn't decided where he is going to bat; he wouldn't be drawn on potential differences between his team and Cook's and he wants to "speak to the lads first" and makes sure they don't hear of any changes of direction "in the media."

There were a few hints, though. While much has been made of the flair of the younger England players, Root clearly wants it combined with grit when required. Asked if he wanted to be an entertaining captain, he replied that he has to be "a captain that wins" and asked whether he could retain his "cheeky" image he suggested it had been "over-played" in the media. "I want us to be tough to play against," he said several times.

That's not to suggest he wants England to be inhibited. He just wants it channelled. As both he and Strauss noted, the last couple of years have been marked by inconsistency in England's Test cricket. Now, with the young and inexperienced team not so young or inexperienced, expectations are increasing.

"I want the guys to enjoy playing cricket," Root said. "You have 10 to 15 years, you have to enjoy being at the pinnacle of the sport and the more I can get that across to the lads, the more we can have that environment the better.

Joe Root undertook his first official duties as England captain at his home ground © Getty Images

"I think that suits the make-up of our squad. And it's important for the game too. I just want to be very natural, instinctive and find something that naturally works."

"We've been very inconsistent," Strauss agreed. "We've had some fantastic results and some fantastic series wins, and then we've had some times when we've got ourselves into good positions in series and we haven't been able to get over the line.

"I don't know if it's about stagnation, but it's certainly about players developing. I think we've got to the stage now where you can recognise we've got a number of world-class players in that team. Now we've got to put it together more often and more consistently than we have done. We need to be more consistent and we need to be harder to beat."

Many of the questions directed at Root concerned his own form. While he could hardly be expected to admit to fears over the potential effects of captaincy, he did point out that the examples of Virat Kohli and Steven Smith suggested that the added responsibility could benefit his batting.

"I do look at what they have done, yes," Root said. "And that excites me.

"This is an opportunity for me. It's a great motivator to make sure I do everything I can to get my batting in the best place possible and set the example for the rest of the guys in the team.

"I like to think that, in the past, the more responsibility I've been given I've stepped up to that and taken it in my stride. Looking around the world, other guys in a similar position to me have taken similar responsibility and taken their game to the next level, so I'd like to think if I go about it the right way I'll be able to do the same thing."

Strauss, too, was optimistic about the effects on Root's batting. Pointing out that the captaincy - described as "the biggest honour in the game" by Root, who declined the invitation to have a few days to think about the offer before accepting - could be "incredibly energising," Strauss expects few downsides in "the next 18 months."

"You walk a bit taller," Strauss said. "And you are passionate about taking the team forward. You want to contribute to winning games of cricket, and we've seen a lot of captains that it's had a really positive effect on their game generally. There's no reason why that wouldn't happen to Joe for the next 18 months."

There is no immediate prospect of England appointing one captain to cover all three formats, though. Even if Eoin Morgan had not led the white-ball sides' improvement over the last 18 months, Strauss is inclined to believe that the demands of leading across formats is too demanding to be sustainable.

"When I started this job I saw great value in us having separate captains for the different formats," Strauss said. "And the reason behind that is because it allows that person to spend every waking hour thinking about how to take the team forward in that particular format.

"When you have a captain for all formats, it's very hard to be able to do that consistently. You almost inevitably start sleep-walking from one format to the other, so I still think there's great value in having those two captains.

"Eoin has done a fantastic job as one-day captain, and we've seen the change of method and philosophy in white-ball cricket - and how successful that's been. There's certainly no reason why I'd want to upset that apple-cart at this stage."

Either way, it seems nobody within the ECB is going to try to shape Root's captaincy. He will be encouraged to find his own way and

"The advice everyone gives you when you take over as captain is to do it your way," Strauss said. "It's got to feel right for you.

At the same time, you should always listen to people that have been in that position before and understand how to manage yourself a bit and how to manage others.

"But I think if you have a depth of character about you, and you have a realisation that you only get this chance once in your life, you pretty much get to the stage where 'I'm going to do what I think is right, and I'll be judged on that.' And certainly that's how I anticipate Joe will go about doing things."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • ELECTRIC_LOCO_WAP4_IS_DELUDED on February 17, 2017, 9:45 GMT

    If one goes by the notion that Kohli makes runs on flat pitches, then you have to say that pitches are generally flat worldwide and thus the other 3 score runs on flat pitches too.

  • ModernUmpiresPlz on February 17, 2017, 2:33 GMT

    @CARMELO_BRYANT Well you're obviously a Smith hater but considering what the selectors did during that SL tour the white wash is kind of hard to blame entirely on him. Unless of course, you think the captain controls absolutely everything that happens on the field. Then again, you chose no D Melo and Kobe "ball hog" Bryant out of all the possible options so I guess I'll leave it there.

  • Kris Bharki on February 17, 2017, 1:52 GMT

    What Kohli is doing as captain is nothing short of remarkable. The board is in turmoil and there is no leadership whatsoever either to represent players interests within the BCCI or at the ICC level. There is latent but vitriolic jostle for power between the entrenched old guard and the court appointment new guard. There are days when no one seems sure who is in charge, who pays the bills and whom the selectors are and if the selection panel has jurisdiction to select a team. The Indian captain doesn't know when, where or with whom his team will play the next series and there is not certain if his team will even play in the Champions Trophy (with potential standoff between ICC and BCCI on the cards). His leadership in this climate of daily turmoil, uncertainty is going unnoticed because he is doing it so seamlessly with the bat and on and off the field. Root many succeeded with the bat as much as Kohli as captain but there are not nearly as many challenges and pressures to overcome.

  • Kris Bharki on February 17, 2017, 1:26 GMT

    Congratulations to Root, but captaining England isn't all that difficult. In the English system, the coach seems as much if not more important than the captain. They also seem to employ the largest entourage of support staff in world cricket. Coach, assistant coach, batting and fielding coaches, a spin consultant, dietitian, on and on. It seems to be highly data, process driven paint-by-numbers set up, where captain is expected to more or less execute plans devised in the dressing room. The system doesn't require innovation or instinct from a captain.

  • MaskedMagpie on February 16, 2017, 21:39 GMT

    Good luck Joe, this might be the making of you as it has been for a number of players in the past who have elevated their games to new heights under the captaincy. And to those silly Kohli bashers below, please!! As a displaced kiwi in Australia even I can see that over the last year or so he is the best batsman in the world bar none, not even Steve Smith or Kane Williamson. If you think he is a flat track bully I guess you wouldn't want him playing for your team then...

  • thebatsmansHoldingthebowlersWilley on February 16, 2017, 20:41 GMT

    This kid is a smart cookie don't worry about that. He's going to make an astute captain and he's also the best bat so he can also lead by example. Go Rooty boy

  • ravi.narla on February 16, 2017, 20:16 GMT

    Spot on @AVIRAL MISHRA. You certainly nailed the point.

  • Mushtanda on February 16, 2017, 15:15 GMT

    Quit dreaming, JRoot. ECB has a certain agenda in making you the captain, but you'd most likely be the worst England has had.

  • cooljack_143 on February 16, 2017, 12:40 GMT

    This is a great example to say, with sheer determination & hard work comes success.*well deserved *

  • GR8GAUR on February 16, 2017, 11:39 GMT

    @CRICFAN6128580 Flat decks is where Kohli scores, hmmmm.... so ENG hold world record of 444 in ENG, AUS are full of highways and so are SA and India, Kohli has scored in NZ, WI and last India eon Asia cup on spicy BD decks was because of Kohli. Why Kohli failed in ENG was because after Lords test, each deck India played on was like AUS 60-10. I wish if the tracks for IND in 2014 and PAK in 2016 were not so different.

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