The Time Has Come For Joe Root To Step Down As Captain And Focus On Finding Form

The England batsman is averaging just 27.4 in Test cricket in 2019
11:02, 26 Nov 2019

Joe Root loves a soft dismissal these days. 

Should England decide to move him aside as captain at the end of their tour of New Zealand, it would be anything but soft. 

Take his wicket in the second innings of the first Test. The Yorkshireman briefly contemplated an uppercut, before deciding to leave at the last moment; a moment that captured pretty well the indecisiveness which is plaguing the skipper.   

A man once considered in the same echelon as Steve Smith, Virat Kohli, and Kane Williamson is averaging 27.4 with the bat in Test cricket in 2019. It seems stranger all the time that he was ever part of the ‘big four’ conversation

His average since becoming captain is now under 40, and his only century this calendar year came against the West Indies. 

This is Root the batsman. But what of the captain? It is easier to imagine him wriggling meekly out of the armband than any real struggle taking place. He looks burdened, beaten and desperate to focus on recovering his form. 

It is two years since he took over the captaincy from Alastair Cook and at the time, he seemed like the best option. 

Even then, there were concerns that he would go down the same route as Michael Vaughan. 

What Vaughan offered, however, when he was no longer bringing regular runs to the table, was assured leadership. 

Root may be popular in the dressing room, but his players are struggling. Jofra Archer is enduring a difficult start to his Test career, unaided by his captain’s hesitancy in bringing him on against New Zealand.

That was after England’s batsmen had already underwhelmed in the first innings on an exceptionally flat wicket of which the hosts made a mockery, waltzing to 615-9 before declaring.  

Aside from conceding the Ashes once again, albeit salvaging a draw on home soil, in recent months England have also lost by 10 wickets to the West Indies and been bowled out for double figures by both Australia and Ireland. 

Those are collective failings, of course, but unlike Smith, who holds his head while all around are losing theirs, Root rarely manages to buck the trend. 

This is not a scathing criticism of the player himself. He remains England’s most technically gifted Test batsman, with the possible exception of Ben Stokes.  

It’s for that reason that Chris Silverwood would be wise to consider his options – and there not being many is not reason enough to keep sacrificing Root. 

Jos Buttler is expected to take over from Eoin Morgan in white-ball cricket in the long term. If he is to keep the gloves, he is as permanent and as viable a solution in the Test set-up as any. 

Many of the other senior players, like Stuart Broad, are in the twilight of their international careers but on the other end of the spectrum, there is Rory Burns. The opener is still bedding himself in at international level but does have experience having led Surrey to the County Championship.

Whether or not Burns or Buttler are suitable answers remains to be seen, but something has to change for Root's sake as much as the team's.

England need Root at his best. That is not going to happen while he remains captain.

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