When England appointed Joe Root as the new Test captain back in February, there were few pundits and fans who argued with the decision. After all, who else was there? And Root was England’s talisman and best player. Root was the England management’s only real viable choice.
Fast forward a few months, and Root is finding out the hard way that the decisions you take as a captain can have consequences, and as former captains like Nasser Hussain can testify, the decisions you take can be used as a big stick to beat you with when things start going wrong, and the media turns on you.
Root has already – by his own admission – made a huge mistake in the 1st Test of the current Ashes series, when he took Jimmy Anderson off after bowling just 3 Overs with the second new ball in the 1st innings when he had the Aussies 7 wickets down, and still over 80 runs behind England’s 1st innings total.
Fair enough, Root held his hands up to that one and admitted his mistake. Moving onto the 2nd Test, and another dodgy looking decision from Root, who after winning the toss (again), this time rather surprisingly asked the Aussies to bat first – click here for bookmakers offering the latest odds on the Ashes.
I’d not heard one ex player or pundit who said pre match that it would be a good idea to bowl first on the pitch, quite the opposite in fact. The likes of Michael Vaughan were quick to point out that as it was a drop in wicket, it was a trip into the unknown. No one had any real idea of how the wicket would behave, and Vaughan commented that you wouldn’t want to be batting on it 4th – exactly what England will now have to do after deciding to bowl first.
Quite a risky strategy when the series was arguably in the balance. It is obvious if England lose in Adelaide, it will be near on impossible to come back from 2-0 down, especially with Perth to come next. So why take such a risk at such a critical juncture of the series?
Root has previous in his short tenure as captain for being a touch cavalier. The 2nd Test against West Indies at Headingley back in August was one such occasion. Root’s England side were 1-0 up in the best of 3 series, and had just wrestled back control of the Test match (and with it the series) thanks to a swashbuckling 84 from Moeen Ali, ably assisted by Chris Woakes, who ended on 61 not out.
Out of nowhere Root declared the England innings on 490/8 towards the end of Day 4. West Indies seen off the remaining 6 Overs on Day 4, and with a full day’s play on Day 5 still remaining, there was ample time for the Windies to get the runs. Root had underestimated (and arguably disrespected) the Windies batting by setting them a modest target of 322 from 96 Overs.
The Windies duly knocked them off for a comfortable 5 wicket victory, putting a series win in doubt for England, especially given the English weather last summer. Root put himself in the position of been a few days worth or rain away from drawing a home series 1-1 with West Indies. Which wouldn’t have looked too clever on his CV.
Root has shown that he is prepared to improvise as a captain, and not always follow the well trodden conventional methods. I’m sure he will be a successful England captain in the long run, and these experiences will only serve to help him improve in the future.