England’s cricket administrators are unlikely to look beyond Joe Root when they name the successor to Alastair Cook as Test skipper. The 26-year-old batsman is already the Test vice-captain, and though Root does not captain the ODI or T20 side, there is little doubt who the England players look up to.
Root’s maturity has been hailed in much the same manner as New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson. His appointment will ensure continuity in leadership and infuse dynamism in the way the Test team is guided as Cook, although England’s best Test batsman, has proved too defensive in the last few series.
The Yorkshire player is rated among the finest contemporary batsmen, with Virat Kohli, Williamson, Australia skipper Steve Smith and his compatriot David Warner. If Root is appointed, he would expand the list of the best batsmen leading their national sides.
England will hugely gain from Root’s experience since his Test debut on the 2012-13 series in India, in Nagpur like his predecessor Cook. While he was a natural fit in the side, and has become the vital cog since Kevin Pietersen’s departure, Root has also seen the low of a 0-5 Ashes whitewash in Australia in 2013-14 and a loss of batting confidence which he had to recover.
England go-to guy --- he batted at No 3 for the team in the Test series in India though he is a natural No 4 --- was picked by Cook and Virat Kohli as England’s Test skipper-in-waiting as it became clear that a leadership change was inevitable.
After the Mumbai Test loss to concede the India series, Cook wasn’t sure when or if he would step down but said Root was ready when it happened.
“Root is ready to captain England because he is a clued-up guy and has the respect of everyone in the changing room,” Cook said.
NO EASY RIDE
Both Cook and Kohli cautioned Root of the pressures captaincy can bring.
“You never know until you actually experience it and everything that comes with the England captaincy. You are thrown in at the deep end and you kind of sink or swim. Nothing can prepare you for it. He has not got much captaincy experience but that does not mean everything,” Cook said.
Kohli was thrown the question ahead of the final Test in Chennai in mid December. “Joe looks like a guy who has the temperament to do it,” he said. “Of whatever I have seen of him as a player and the way he conducts himself on the field, he has been a great batsman for England and I think he’s equipped enough to handle that job.”
Can captaincy affect his batting? “He’s very positive, always thinks of any situation as an opportunity. It’s pretty evident with the way he plays,” the Indian skipper said.
“I don’t know what captaincy would do to that. Captaincy is not just about handling 10 more guys on the field or having a squad and interacting with management. It comes with a whole package...”
Captaining the team first at home should help Root find his feet quickly.