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England are presentable at home but poor abroad, and their home strength is under threat

Though he is their best batter, a fair amount of the blame for that must go to Joe Root

Ian Chappell
Ian Chappell
Joe Root leads his players off after another tough day, Australia vs England, 3rd Test, 1st day, MCG, December 26, 2021

England have come a cropper under Joe Root  •  Getty Images

There's no doubt England are a badly chosen Test side, poorly led and needing a drastic overhaul. Does their disarray also offer a preview of Test cricket's future?
Test cricket could eventually be limited to matches between the eight major nations. Sometime in the future Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Ireland and Zimbabwe won't be featuring in longer matches. This is easy to visualise for reasons that include lack of ability as well as lack of home-ground facilities.
What about the major nations?
Unless something is done to bolster West Indies' finances, there will continue to be a question mark over Caribbean participation. The lack of cricket initiative deserves criticism, for letting the West Indies Test team sink to a low level.
Because of the country's unsettled political situation, there will continue to be concern about South Africa. This factor becomes even more apparent when a highly capable player like Quinton de Kock retires from Test cricket while still in his prime.
Sri Lanka, Pakistan and New Zealand have problems ranging from political uncertainty to player-pool depth. Nevertheless they do have an affinity for producing good players, and Pakistan and New Zealand, particularly, appear to prosper in adversity.
That leaves the big three: India, Australia and England.
India have proven they can win away from home and are now the best all-round side. With a huge player pool, there is no reason this should change, but a lot will depend on whether the captain following Virat Kohli has the same passion for Test cricket.
Australia will always be a reasonable Test nation despite the concern about future young batters. The Australian infrastructure, while severely diluted, still serves a purpose and has a tendency to produce capable captains. Pat Cummins is a good example. He leads with common sense and has a team under him who know what is required in the five-day game. Experience says a team of competitors who want to play for their captain will usually achieve decent home results.
That leaves England. The current tour might end in a 5-0 loss, and a humiliating defeat at that. If that occurs, England will have featured in 25 Tests in Australia, starting with the 2006-07 series, for 20 losses and only two draws. Their three wins all came on the successful 2010-11 tour, when Andrew Strauss led a determined outfit. That is a disgraceful record and cannot be fully explained by any blustering at press conferences.
There is no doubt England are a presentable home side, but given their travelling record under Joe Root's captaincy, they struggle to be considered a top-level nation. This was obvious in India, where England badly lost the series 3-1, and in Australia they are in danger of losing nine of the ten Tests Root will have led in by the end of this series.
Even in England, Root's lack of inspiration as a leader is starting to show. Albeit in some trying times, because of the pandemic, England are starting to lose their reputation as a team that is difficult to beat at home. It's incorrect to make Root culpable, as he is easily England's best batter, but he has to accept some of the blame. He has never been a leader of substance and virtually gained the job because there was no other candidate and it was hoped he would grow into the job.
It has become patently clear Root is not the man for the task if England want to be recognised as a tough team to beat in all circumstances.
That is the easy part, bringing a tenure to an end; the tough job is finding a better incumbent. In the current side only Ben Stokes could be considered captaincy material. He has the qualities of a good captain; he's aggressive, inspirational, and has the ability to lift the team.
It would be an extremely tough task, given his already demanding role as an allrounder. He has the ability to do the job but it could also break his spirit. The other major point to consider is, the ECB doesn't have a reputation for taking tough decisions.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is a columnist