Danny Hall: Joe Root's time as England skipper may be up - but history is still there to be made
In the history of the game in this country, no captain has led their side more often in Test matches – no skipper has won more Tests, but none have lost more either.
There have been calls for a change for a while, driven by England’s woeful recent run but failing to take into account other factors that have influenced it. Root has made mistakes and some questionable calls, which he will no doubt admit himself. All skippers do.
But it is hardly his fault that no other England batsman, apart from himself, could buy a run for so long. It is in fact testament to both his mental strength as much as his ability that he continued to carry the side in terms of runs, even with the pressure of captaincy weighing heavily on his shoulders.
Neither, either, did he instigate the whole of English cricket’s focus shifting entirely to the white-ball format of the game, geared towards winning the 2019 World Cup. Key men have been rested from Test series to make sure they aren’t overcooked. With a limited pool of talent anyway, it just tied another arm behind his back.
No other England captain in modern times, either, has had to contend with leading a side in times such as these, with players and staff confined to isolation and ‘bubbles’ during the coronavirus pandemic. That was bound to have taken a strain and appeared to at times.
The dearth of power in English cricket now includes the Test skipper, as well as the coach, managing director, selector and ECB chairman, and there is hardly a great field of potential candidates to take over the captaincy from Root.
Ben Stokes is perhaps the obvious choice, but already has so much on his plate as the side’s only other real world-class performer apart from Root. Stuart Broad could come into contention if he returns to the fold, but the fact that other names banded about include James Vince, Liam Livingstone and Rory Burns show the predicament in which English cricket finds itself.
One issue they don’t have is Root as a batsman, who will surely now go on to break even more Test records in an England shirt without the pressure of captaincy potentially affecting him. England must hope that another Alastair Cook situation is avoided, with Root’s predecessor as skipper so mentally drained from his spell in charge that he retired far too prematurely from England duty altogether.
Like Cook, Root deserved the chance to end his tenure on his own terms. He is, from personal experience, a genuinely good man who has given so much of himself to the cause over the last few years and deserves all the adulation and well-wishes that come his way.
His time as skipper may be up. But the chance to carry on, score a boatload more runs and establish himself as the greatest batsman this country has ever produced, never mind Sheffield, is still firmly ahead of the man with the cherubic smile forged in the steel city.