ANDREW STRAUSS INTERVIEW: 'Root will sail beyond Cook!'
ANDREW STRAUSS INTERVIEW: ‘Root will sail beyond Cook!’ Ashes-winning skipper expects ruthless Joe to become England’s highest Test run-scorer of all-time… but insists he will always have an asterisk by his name if he doesn’t enjoy success in Australia
- Sir Andrew Strauss has hailed the performances of England captain Joe Root
- Root scored a sensational 218 runs to help his side beat India in Chennai
- The 30-year-old is close to passing Michael Vaughan’s record of Test match wins
- And Strauss is confident that the captain will break Sir Alistair Cook’s run record
- He added Root will be eager to win the Ashes in Australia to cement his legacy
It was one of the easier decisions he had to make as the ECB’s director of cricket.
During a largely successful three and a half years in the role, Sir Andrew Strauss endured some turbulent times – including sacking coach Peter Moores, ending Kevin Pietersen’s England career and leaving Ben Stokes out of an Ashes tour following his fight in Bristol.
But an altogether less contentious – and perhaps more significant – move was his appointment of Joe Root to replace Sir Alastair Cook as Test captain in 2017.
Sir Andrew Strauss has backed Joe Root to pass Sir Alistair Cook’s run record for England
The England captain scored a sensational 218 runs as England won the first Test in Chennai
‘We tried to do the process as thoroughly as possible and we interviewed a few different players,’ reflects Strauss, who also met Stokes and Stuart Broad about the job.
‘The mistake people make is when there is an obvious next in line and it is often your best player. If you just make those decisions without really thinking it through, sometimes you live to regret them.
‘But it was clear in my mind that Joe was not just in a great place in terms of his own game, but he had put a lot of thought into the direction that he wanted to take the England team in.
‘You are never quite sure how someone is going to react to the captaincy, but I felt he was ready for that challenge.’
Under Root’s captaincy, England have notched an impressive number of wins against top sides
And Strauss believes that Root’s England side are on an upward trajectory in the Test format
Strauss has been proved right, with Root set to break Michael Vaughan’s record for most Test wins as England captain if his side beats India in the second Test starting on Saturday in Chennai.
His 26 victories in 47 Tests in charge is also two more than Strauss himself managed in his 50 matches leading an England side which climbed to No1 in the Test rankings. While Root’s win percentage of 55.31 is the best of any skipper since Mike Brearley.
‘When he was a young guy in that England team, he was a bit of a Jack the Lad, laughing and joking and not taking life too seriously,’ Strauss, 43, explains to Sportsmail.
‘He has matured since then but he still retains that incredible enthusiasm for the game and a pretty calm, composed, laid-back attitude to international cricket.
‘For the captain to give an outward impression that it is all under control is a very powerful tool to have and he does that.
The former England skipper says the current captain is hungry for an Ashes win in Australia
Root captained the side to a humiliating 4-0 loss but will want to avenge that series defeat
‘He is learning all the time tactically. Alongside coach Chris Silverwood, there has been real clarity in terms of how the Test team are looking to play.
‘He is incredibly passionate about playing cricket for England and making the most of his time as captain.
‘He has done a magnificent job and he still has a lot of gas in the tank so there is plenty more opportunity for further records to be broken.’
And yet Root’s qualities as a leader have largely been ignored until now. Strauss thinks he knows why.
‘It’s partly due to the fact that we put so much stock on the Ashes,’ says Strauss, who led England to two Ashes wins including their last victory Down Under in 2010-11, whereas Root lost 4-0 in Australia and drew last summer’s series 2-2.
‘The Ashes series are always the things that we are measured by. You judge a captain’s ability by whether they win the Ashes series or not, which is perhaps unfair.
Strauss knows what it takes to win Down Under having triumphed in the 2010-11 Ashes series
‘England have won a hell of a lot of matches under Joe and his win percentage is higher than anyone. Over the last 18 months, form wise, England are probably the best team in the world.
‘But if he doesn’t manage to win in Australia, that will always be an asterisk against his name. It will be, “He might have had success but he didn’t have success in Australia”. He will have a point to prove in Australia this winter.’
With the bat, Root’s formidable form this year has seen him climb up to third on the list of England’s all-time top Test run scorers. He is 3,965 runs behind Cook’s record of 12,472 – a mark Strauss expects him to pass.
‘Personally, I think he’ll do it,’ says Strauss. ‘Even Alastair would admit Joe is a better all-round player than he was. Joe, I would argue, is the best all-round player I’ve ever seen for England.
‘It’s just a case of him staying healthy and he will surpass anyone else.’
But Strauss, who is replacing Cook in the Channel 4 pundit’s chair for the second Test, does not think the current England team have yet reached the level of his world-leading side of a decade ago.
‘I think they’re probably a year or two away from that still,’ he adds. ‘At the moment they are still a bit too reliant on two or three senior cricketers putting in the bulk of the performances.
Strauss expects the 30-year-old to overtake former captain Cook’s astonishing Test run record
‘If you look at the team we had in 2010-11, we had batsmen one to seven, all of whom could be expected to score a hundred on any given occasion.
‘I don’t get that feeling yet with this England team. What would be a great achievement, though, is to win in India and Australia in the same year.
‘You couldn’t have two more contrasting challenges and so that would show an incredible versatility to your team.
‘That would bode exceptionally well in terms of not just being the No1 team in the world but staying there as well.
‘If you were looking at things logically, you’d still say that India have favourites to win this series, given their strong record at home.
‘And then going to Australia and winning is a very significant challenge for anyone – but it is possible and England have got a great chance to do that.’
Live coverage of India v England is on Channel 4 and All 4 from 3.40am. Highlights of Saturday’s play are on More4 at 1.15pm and on All 4.
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