Root may be England’s best captain, but he won’t be a great until he wins Ashes
Well done to Joe Root for becoming England’s most successful Test captain of all time. It is the kind of thing that does not sink in while you are still playing. You only reflect on those achievements later in life.
When that happens he will realise his record may never be beaten because of how much Test cricket will be played in the future. To captain England for 55 matches is a great effort in itself given how draining the job is, especially when he is carrying the batting to such a great extent as well.
England captain Joe Root applauds the crowd after his team’s victory in the third Test against India at Headingley last week.Credit:Getty
I am pretty sure he would swap some of those 27 victories for an Ashes series win. More than anything he wants to experience the feeling of holding up the urn because it is the only piece missing from his career.
Perhaps it will change in time and winning the World Test Championship will become the pinnacle for captains, but at the moment, for the leaders of England and Australia, it is the Ashes that matters above all else.
I might cop a little bit of flak for this but Joe will not go down as a great captain until he beats Australia, probably even in his own mind. Who knows, his third crack might be his last. Not many get four bites at the cherry.
When you receive that great phone call to offer you the England job, your sole focus is on how to beat Australia. You want to win the Ashes more than anything and anyone who disagrees is lying.
Virat Kohli will be eager to bounce back against England in the fourth Test at the Oval.Credit:Getty
Root has endured a lot of ups and downs, none more than over the 10 days following the recent second Test defeat to India. But he bounced back from the Lord’s loss, when he just had a bad hour tactically, by reminding himself England only had a chance to win that game because of his batting.
When it is bad as England captain, it is really bad. You feel a lot of pain, but also you are never far from being a good captain again, which is why I said after the Lord’s game he had to hang in there. I knew it would change, although possibly not as emphatically as it did in the third Test.
His big thing now is to win this series, which would be a great achievement from where England have been this summer, and the number of high-calibre players they have lost, and then refocus on Australia.
These weeks are a reminder that England can be a good team when conditions are in their favour and, in Ollie Robinson, they have a high-class player, although I look at him and wonder how he will be in heat, bowling in Australia. How many overs will he be able to bowl? Has he got the stamina and energy to bowl 25 overs at maximum intensity on day one in Brisbane, coming back for a third spell late in the day when the second new ball can be so important? When he is bowling at over 132km/h, like he was at Headingley, he is a real threat. But at Lord’s, when he was bowling at 127 km/h playing a second Test in consecutive weeks for the first time, he was not a threat. He might have to get a bit fitter. We will see how he goes at The Oval.
India, for whatever reason, did not have the determination and right mindset at Headingley in the third Test. They have been aggressive and confrontational, but when you do that you have to deliver as well, and they did not. Surely they have to pick Ravichandran Ashwin next week. You cannot have four rabbits from eight to 11. The resistance at Lord’s lulled them into a false sense of security about their tail. In reality, they cannot have Mohammed Shami coming in at eight.
In a five-match series, particularly with modern players, you have weeks where teams write off a match quickly if they go behind early. That seemed to be India’s approach after day one, so I do not think it is a series won yet just because England have done well at Headingley. It could take just a couple of good hours at the start of the next match for things to change. Virat Kohli will be back at England again if his team starts well at The Oval.
England have shown a lot of mental strength and character this week and that is down to Root and Chris Silverwood. Whatever they have done allowed the players to turn things around quickly and they deserve credit, after copping criticism.
Yes, I never have doubts about England when the ball is moving, but they bowled well on Friday as well, when it was good for batting.
England were perfect. It is impossible not to give them 10 out of 10.
The Telegraph, London
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