No, England do not have any better Test captain than Joe Root at present

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Joe Root, England's Test captain

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No, England do not have any better Test captain than Joe Root at present

In cricket, there is no greater satisfaction than winning matches after matches as a skipper of a side but unfortunately, it has not worked extensively with Joe Root. Still, there is no better candidate than him for his role, as he has been in the form of his life even in the most difficult times.

Sometimes, cricket can be cruel and demanding. It brings committed players and leaders, but at the same time, their constant failures make them sad and livid. Look at Joe Root, one of the major forces in world cricket but someone who has been having an excruciating time as England’s Test captain for more than a year.

Till now, Root has led the English side in 64 Tests, since taking charge in 2017, of which they have won 27 and lost 26. Since 1980, among the captains who have led England in Tests more than 10 times, Root’s loss percentage (40.62) is fourth-lowest after Andrew Flintoff (63.33), David Gower (56.25), and Alec Stewart (53.33). In fact, only Stephen Fleming (27) and Graeme Smith (29) have overseen more defeats in the history of the game.

After England’s recent 1-0 series defeat in West Indies, former captains Michael Atherton, Nasser Hussain and Michael Vaughan called for Root to be removed from his position. Considering that they are winless in nine Test matches and have only won once in their past 17, their echoes make sense.

However, England aren't blessed with massive riches at present beyond Root. Ben Stokes is an option but speaking after a humiliating 4-0 Ashes defeat in Australia earlier this year, Root’s deputy, and one of the popular names as his successor, said that he had “never really had an ambition to be a captain.” Stuart Broad is another possible choice but at 35, his age is creeping up against him and it would be nothing more than a short-term solution. The others, to be honest, are in no way near to taking up the baton.

Now, the question is, has Root done anything wrong at the helm to be blamed? Well, as far as his batting form is concerned, Root, individually, strides like a colossus albeit in a traumatic situation. Even in the recently concluded West Indies tour, he notched up back-to-back hundreds in the opening two matches and aggregated 289 runs – the most among his teammates – at an average of 48.17.

As a batter, Root was unparalleled in 2021. In 15 Tests last year, he aggregated 1708 runs with six centuries. This includes his famous 218 against India at M. A. Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai, which was also his 100th Test. It is worth a mention that only two others – Pakistan’s Mohammad Yousuf (1,788 in 2006) and West Indies’ Viv Richards (1,710 in 1976) – have accumulated more Test runs in a calendar year than Root.

Although the critics have begun to question his wisdom, Root still looks towards giving more of himself as captain in the future. Following the West Indies rout, the English stalwart reiterated his desire to remain at the position, saying he is “very passionate about taking this team forward.” He further thanked the English dressing room for supporting him constantly, which proves he has emerged as a strong individual, at the same time while becoming a pillar of his side.

In a recent interview with BBC, Vaughan, who captained England 51 times between 2003 and 2008, cited Root’s ‘poor’ tactical decisions on the field and suggested that he should step down. Though the cricketer-turned-pundit termed the 31-year-old ‘England's best player,’ Vaughan urged him to relinquish the position, as he does not feel sacking would give him any justice. But considering Root’s recent comments, it is highly unlikely that it is on the cards.

England were without a director of cricket and head coach in the West Indies series after Ashley Giles and Chris Silverwood left their respective roles following the Ashes' embarrassment. Andrew Strauss and Paul Collingwood have since taken over the roles, on an interim basis, but the permanent appointments, as well as the decision about the captaincy, are expected to be announced before England’s next Test assignment against New Zealand at Lord’s, starting from June 2.

Collingwood, who is also interested to be permanent, backed ‘magnificent’ Root after the West Indies series. In fact, he said, the English captain has “shown a real drive and determination to turn things around,” and should be given more opportunities. Now, the time will tell whether Root will be sacked, or give up, but it is safe to say he has got the backing of his current boss, who does not want to change the guard immediately.

Clearly, Root seems to have accepted the fact that his style of captaincy has not been great. There will be no good word around him until he leads England back to the winning ways and diverse views will keep flying at him from public platforms with regards to England’s results in Tests since February of last year. But still, with a depleted side and a standout performer in mind, he at least deserves one more chance against the World Test champions to hit out the critics. A change in captaincy will not cure all ills anyway.

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