4 Options To Replace Joe Root As Captain

Sometimes familiarity breeds contempt. And England’s contemptible loss by an innings and 65 runs at Mount Maunganui certainly felt very familiar indeed. But it wasn’t just the manner of the defeat that felt like deja vu. The captain’s performance was poor (with both bat and in the field) and many supporters are now debating whether we need to replace Joe Root for the sake of the team.

We’ve seen this all before, of course. Alastair Cook was often criticised for his captaincy acumen. He didn’t seem like a natural leader, he was clearly a limited tactician, and the best that could be said is that he ‘lead from the front‘ – that rather nebulous concept that merely means leading by example.

The problem with Cook, however, is that the team simply couldn’t get rid of him. There didn’t seem to be an obvious replacement waiting in the wings; therefore he hung on until he’d captained England more than anyone else in history – even though he was no good at it.

Unfortunately one can see a tediously similar situation unfolding with Root. He’s not a good captain either. Like Cook he’d never shown any aptitude for captaincy before being appointed, he doesn’t seem like a natural leader, and he only got the job because it seemed preordained.

The ECB chose Root because he was the pin-up boy of English cricket at the time, he was clearly the best batsman, and he was young enough to have a future but not so young that he lacked experience.

And who else was there anyway?

The parallels with Cook aren’t exact though. Sir Alastair’s batting was initially inspired by the captaincy. In fact, by the end of his career he averaged more as skipper (46.5) than he did in the ranks (44.6). It’s a very different story with Root though. Joe averages a lot less as captain (39.7) than he does a mere player (52.8).

What’s more, England probably need Root the batsman more now than England ever needed Cook in the early years of his captaincy. When Alastair became skipper he had several international class batsmen around him – Bell, Trott, Pietersen, Collingwood, Prior – whereas the current England side has a talismanic all-rounder in Stokes and, erm, that’s about it really. The others batsman are still establishing themselves. Therefore, there’s a compelling reason to replace Joe Root right there.

England simply can’t afford to lose their only world class batsman to the travails of captaincy at the moment. Nothing would help the England team more than a liberated Root scoring big hundreds again. But the problem remains. Who could replace him? And so we go round and round in circles.

Personally I can only see 4 options. And to call any of these options viable is arguably a stretch.

1. Ben Stokes

As the vice captain, one might have identified England’s aforementioned talismanic all-rounder as the natural choice to replace Joe Root. But this one is complicated.

The workload on Stokes is already massive. He’s a key batsman and also an important member of the attack. What’s more, it rarely ends well when England make their key all-rounder captain. Ian Botham’s form suffered badly and he never seemed suited to the role. And then there was Andrew Flintoff. Freddie bowled himself into the ground and eventually ended up all at sea … aboard a pedalo.

Appointing Stokes is therefore a risk. England need him as much as Root’s batting; therefore we might end up restoring Joe’s form but undermining Ben’s. What’s more, with Stokes’s history of off-the-field misdemeanours, some would object to this promotion on moral grounds.

2. Stuart Broad

I’ve advocated giving old Stu-Pot the job on a short-term basis in the past. He’s experienced and has a very good cricket brain – although perhaps not the best judgement when it comes to DRS.

But how long will Broad continue to be an automatic pick? When England get to South Africa, and Jimmy Anderson is fully fit, there’s a chance that England’s second highest wicket-taker could find himself on the outside looking in. An attack of Anderson, Archer, Broad, Stokes, plus Leach looks good on paper but England might want more runs from their tail.

When he’s in rhythm, Broad should be an automatic pick for England. But he was down on pace at Mount Maunganui and looked pretty innocuous. Hmmmm. If he’s not guaranteed a spot then he can’t replace Joe Root. End of.

3. Rory Burns

I’m suggesting this one rather sheepishly after his ill-advised sweep at The Bay Oval. However, Rory Burns has an advantage which none of the other players on this shortlist do: he has good captaincy experience with Surrey. What’s more, the captaincy did not affect his ability to churn out big runs.

Whether Burns is established enough in the side to become captain is debatable. He might have scored five fifties and one hundred in his first 13 tests (a decent return by most standards) but he still only averages 30. What’s more, he doesn’t strike me as the most natural player of spin, which could be a problem when England tour the subcontinent.

As a left-field alternative to replace Joe Root I think Burns has some appeal. However, would it be fair to burden him with the captaincy when he’s still trying to establish himself as a batsman? It could be a risky move.

4. Jos Buttler 

Can I see Jos as captain / batsman / wicket-keeper? No. It’s too much for anyone (just ask Alec Stewart). However, I could see a situation where Buttler relinquishes the gloves, goes back to batting at 6, and captains the team from there – thus facilitating a return for Foakes or Bairstow at 7.

I can think of two compelling factors that work in Buttler’s favour. Firstly he’s just the kind of handsome, well-spoken, and squeaky clean cricketer that the ECB wants its cricket captains (and their families) to be. Ahem.

Secondly, Buttler’s Test batting average of 34 (with the potential to rise higher) is just about acceptable for a No.6. If Root can rediscover his best form, and Jos can continue to average in the 30s, there would clearly be a net gain for the team.

However – and like with all these candidates there’s a big ‘however’ – Jos isn’t exactly a first class cricket specialist. You can write what he doesn’t know about white ball batting on the back of a Rizla+ but can you see him as a red ball tactician? I’m not so sure.

The good thing, however, is that Buttler has been identified as someone with leadership qualities in the past. He’s been vice captain in both forms of the game, and many expect it will be Jos rather than Ben Stokes who ultimately succeeds Eoin Morgan as ODI skipper.


So what do you think? Do any of the 4 options to replace Joe Root tickle your fancy? Or would you prefer to go with the fifth option: retain the current skipper and just hope his fortunes improve? I’d be interested to hear your views.

The most likely outcome, in my humble opinion, is that England will stick with Root for the time being. One of the reasons why Chris Silverwood got the coach’s job was his chemistry with the existing captain. To jettison this plan after one bad test (or even a couple) would smack of panic.

Beware the curveball, however. If Root keeps struggling for runs then I can see him giving the job away. He doesn’t seem to have the same stubborn streak as Alastair Cook. And that’s probably a good thing.

I think Joe will see how South Africa goes and make a decision then. Unless the decision is made for him.

James Morgan

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    • Indeed, Denly has all the experience needed and his captaincy with Kent improved his already considerable skills, bringing big runs and wickets.

    • I would have made Broad captain when they made Root captain, but at 33 it’s a short term appointment, but out of that lot, the best option. There is a lack of international pedigree in this side, and a lot of it is down to the softly softly “no need for inquisition, one of those days, he was just playing his game” nonsense that has allowed the inner core of players to coast through year after year believing that progress and improvement just come with time.

      I also read a comment from ramprakash the other day about how many introverted personalities there are in the dressing room, and that this could be a reason why when up against it the team seem to fold so much (ramprakash said). They need to find a way of getting these players up for the fight, a new captain can’t do it all on their own. But one thing is for sure, Root is so laughably out of his depth as captain he probably genuinely believes he’s the best choice for being Captain

  • None of your four suggestions would do a decent job. I reckon I would give it as go if they will have a non-playing captain on the field! How about Jack Leach. He’s done a great job with the bat so far – a real leader.

  • As batsmen tend to make better captains, Denley or Burns seems the more obvious choice long term, though Broad I feel in the short term might be decent shout in an attempt to raise his personal game and motivate, as he’s clearly a strong personality. You can’t replace a captain mid tour, so it’s with South Africa in mind. To me it’s a question of self belief, to fight back when things are going wrong. We can’t go on in the denial syndrome that is Root, especially now it’s clearly affecting his batting. I don’t see any point delaying the change. Root is clearly increasingly uncomfortable and we need to give what looks a decent team on paper, relief from the recent years baggage of neglect.

  • I am not that impressed by any of your four nominees. Of them all, Burns comes closest for me. England’s record with talismanic allrounders as captains does not make pretty reading – Beefy never captained England to a single victory and his own form nosedived, while Freddie had an an unmitigated disaster in Australia in 2006-7, so I would be exceedingly reluctant even to consider Stokes. Few fast bowlers have made really good captains either. However, there is some history of slow bowlers doing well in the role – Benaud, Illingworth and Vettori at international level to name but three, also Tony Lock both for Leicestershire and Western Australia, and going back further the record of Wilfred Rhodes pulling the strings of various amateur captains for both country and county. Yes – if Root is to be replaced as captain I make the radical suggestion of appointing Jack Leach to the job (wicketkeepers have not often made good captains – too demanding a combo of roles, and there are not many others who are sufficiently established in the side to be considered).

  • I like your option 4 – Buttler as captain and no.6 bat. I think he would be an imaginative captain (unlike recent ones!) and it would allow Foakes to get in the side.
    Morgan is, of course, the best captain around, but he won’t be tried in Tests again.
    I expect that they will just stick with Root until he himslef gets fed up with the job, though.

  • Yes Denley would make a good short-term captain if he continues to play and he seems to be slowly cementing his inclusion. That would buy time to actually think about what it takes to do the job properly, what sort of leadership qualities are needed to successfully fill the role and understand what sort of contribution outside of captaincy is acceptable for someone in that role. History tells us that a good captain can make a huge difference without stellar contributions with bat or ball.

    • I would go for Broad, at least in the short term. At least in England, there has always been a bit of subliminal prejudice against bowlers being captain – which probably harks back to the days of amateurs (mainly batsmen) and professionals (mainly bowlers). None of the other batsmen are secure enough in the side to take the job, and I agree that making Stokes captain risks overburdening him and a repeat of Beefy and Freddie’s unsuccessful captaincy experiences.

  • Why do we continue with this cycle in English cricket? Batsman plays well. Batsman becomes best player in team. Batsman gets made captain. Captain flourishes to begin with. Captain slowly declines to point where he brings the team down. Captain loses authority as a result. Captain is now a rubbish captain AND a rubbish batsman.

    It is happening with Root and has happened Cook, Vaughan, Stewart, Atherton, Botham, Flintoff etc. before him, yet we keep doing it.

    The best player is not always the best leader, just as your top sales guy in a company should never become sales director because the talents that got them to be top salesperson in the first place are the antithesis of those of a good manager.

  • Bairstow?
    Other than Burns I would not consider the others as credible candidates even though I envisage that the captaincy will be given eventually to the charmed, esteemed and clean-cut Buttler.

  • Root has been a captain for more than 30 tests – his batting is getting worse and worse. What about captaincy? Improving? No.

    The way he captains Archer is near criminal. Archer is as fast as Mitchell Johnson, and potentially better. In the 2013-14 Ashes Johnson was the best pace bowler I have ever seen bar none – 95mph and swinging the ball through five matches. Irresistible, a force of nature. And Johnson never bowled more than 25 overs in an innings and in bursts of 3-4 overs.

    Archer bowled 42 overs in one innings a couple of days ago, nearly as much as Leach and more than any other pace bowler – he is being used as the third seamer/ stock bowler. Utterly insane.

    This isn’t rocket science! Yet this is what Root does every match he has captained Archer.

    Root is not learning, indeed his captaincy is getting worse. People who don’t learn are typically of low intelligence – about which nothing can be done.

    Root must stop being captain ASAP. So who?

    If we must play Butler instead of Foakes (sacrificing both keeping ability And runs) then Butler should be captain. At least Butler is smart; smart enough to learn from experience and improve.

    • Yes, it was unbelievable Root’s comment after the match that “Archer should bowl in shorter bursts”. When and how long Archer bowls for is down to Root!

    • The more worrying issue is that Root has always been part of a committee system of leadership, so one assumes there is general consensus about what goes on tactically. This is not going to be solved by a change of captain alone.

  • It’s a shame that Burns is not more established. He, unlike Root, has very good experience as a captain. I’m just worried that if he were appointed before, at least, the end of the winter he wouldn’t have the necessary authority etc.

  • Well maybe Broad very short term out of the 4. But Denley comes without all the baggage so why not. There is little to lose here and much to hopefully gain. Please not Stokes though otherwise we’ll have another top player in the doldrums.

  • First and foremost, there’s no vacancy and unlikely to be a vacancy this side of September unless things go disastrously. And I mean disastrously by England’s standards.

    Secondly, of the four, only Buttler has any (limited) captaincy experience. And I would put a high price on some indication of capability before ousting the premier batsman with all that could potentially entail. Cricket is not football and changing captains is not simply a question of swapping armbands.

    Of those around the squad as potential successors – given no centrally contracted player is going to get any new captaincy experience elsewhere – there’s Denly (as stand in for Billings at Kent), Billings and Mo. Despite being a Kent supporter, the jury is out on the first two either as captain or even holding down a slot in the squad. Which leaves Mo. He seems to do a reasonable job at Worcs but only judging on T20. Pears followers are probably better qualified to comment. The protracted run implied by any change might boost his confidence and help restore a much-missed all-round contribution when we are clearly still looking for a more penetrative spin bowler (much as I like Jack Leach) who can also deliver consistent lower middle order runs……as a proper batsman…..and make space for Anderson, Woakes, or Curran.

    The other option is obviously captain Morgan. Root might find that a more palatable proposition and help salve the blow. Could Morgan…or his back….be persuaded?? Not playing redball cricket hasn’t been an impediment to selection in the Test team thus far. And brilliant captaincy – above all, man management – has been known to paper over other cracks for Middlesex captains of yore.

  • If Buttler is truly to take over from Morgan which seems likely, he can’t to both jobs. Other than that, he would be my choice, batting at 6 with Foakes keeping.

    I would relieve Root of the captaincy as soon as possible and have either Roy Burns, or a even Broad, captaining in South Africa. It could well be too much to ask of Burns, but it could be a tester. Broad would be a stopgap to see how things develop.

    We need Joe’s unnumbered batting. However I doubt that it will happen and we will be left looking at more of the same.

  • “Buttler’s Test batting average of 34 (with the potential to rise higher) is just about acceptable for a No.6”.

    Not for someone playing as a specialist batsman it isn’t. Buttler’s 29, played nearly 40 Tests and averages 33.5 with one century.

    BTW while Buttler’s on a million a year from his central contract (with match fees and franchise selections to add), his opposite number BJ Watling is on a central contract worth about £40,000 a year. Watling as a red-ball specialist has zero chance of topping up his earnings in franchise tournaments and will earn a lot less in match fees as NZ play so few Tests. The same applies to Archer versus Wagner (although Wagner has perhaps slightly more chance of a franchise pick than Watling). The comparisons will be a lot worse next year with England expected to get an enormous pay rise regardless of the shit they serve up on the pitch.

    Think NZ won the last Test? England won, like the Big Three win every game they play.

    • Beggars can’t be choosers. Jonty Rhodes averaged 35. Hansie Cronje averaged 36. Allan Lamb averaged 36. Nasser Hussain averaged 37. If he can do as well as these guys then he’s worth a place, especially if he’s adding something else i.e. captaincy too.

      Buttler averages 40 at No.6 and has the second highest average in the team since his recall. He’ll do. You’ll know I’ve never been his biggest fan but it’s not like we’re blessed with particularly great options here :-)

  • Agree Root needs replacing. Burns and Denley are not well established enough in the team to be captain. Stokes and Buttler have important all rounder roles which don’t go well with captaincy. If you move Buttler to six and bring in another wicket keeper you would have to replace one of the up and coming batsman. Best option is Broad as short term fix until someone else emerges as the clear choice. Or perhaps give Mike Brearley a call?

  • Hard to say which of these has the necessary combination of craftiness and stubbornness to do the job. The only thing i would say is forget about the conventional ‘rules’ of captaincy selection; those being that it should be an established batsman, who is not a bowler, keeper or all-rounder. If you follow those rules you end up with Root and no one else. Go for the guy who is in the side who is best suited for the job. If thats Broad, Denly, Burns or Stokes then so be it. I have meet none of these guys so really have no idea which of them it should be. But I think if they go for the best captain rather then worry about the rules then it will work out ok. Very few Australian supporters would have picked Paine as a potential captain until he was selected, and that worked out ok. Not to mention Brearley and Illingworth, neither who really fit the captaincy rules.

  • Or, you persuade Eoin Morgan to step in for the meantime, while England chooses a settled sided and gets back to winning ways – a sort of Brearley figure. Then, once the Buttler / Bairstow / Foakes issue is sorted. you give the armband to Buttler, who gives the gloves to Bairstow.

  • You’ve all missed the obvious choice. Test average of well over forty, loads of captaincy experience plus a winning record. Good ambassador for the game, would fit in at the top of the order and, at 34, perfect age for a run at the job. Lambing season might be a problem.

  • No wonder there is no one with” captain ability” ECB get rid of anyone showing an ability to think for themselves and stand up for themselves. Well done ECB. You’ve done it again.

  • There is not a vacancy and there won’t be one in the near future. Speculation is fruitless.
    As for Buttler, he wouldn’t even be in my team.

  • According to Stokes this morning all the team are behind Root. Probably been told to say that. Giles says give him more timd, well he’s had 30 Tests in charge and is getting worse.

    Denny has now joined the fray calling for better home
    pitches. Well they have to blame something else rather than themselves. Nothing much wrong with home pitches (except Taunton) . Look at the fixtures Denly: 3.5 four day games in the whole of June, July and August next season. You know if cricketers had a brain they’d be dangerous.

  • Those who want to push a “spoilt brat Root hangs Archer out to dry” need to explain the stump mic picking up Stokes saying “C’mon Jofra, this is a Test match” after some mis-fielding. This would seem to suggest it wasn’t only Root who had some questions about aspects of Archer’s attitude during the match. I’d also point that having watched a large chunk of the game live, it wasn’t as if Archer started off bowling fast and then his speeds declined because of his workload. He actually bowled faster later in the innings when he got riled up. Finally, I’d suggest that Root was stuck between Stokes and Broad carrying possible injuries (or having some issue that meant they couldn’t bowl lots of stock overs) and Curran and Leach leaking runs heavily (or a feeling that NZ could score heavily off them if they chose to do so). England’s attack doesn’t have someone who can do the CDG role for NZ and bowl a containing spell as 3rd or 4th seamer. I guess Woakes might come in to do this but teams have usually been able to get after him in away Tests. Those who want Archer used as MJ in 2014 have to answer a) who can play the role that Siddle played in that team, the experienced containing 3rd seamer and b) despite the myths, MJ actually bowled more overs than any other Aussie bowler in that series so short spells doesn’t necessarily equate to an overall lighter burden.

    This isn’t to defend everything Root said or did – just to correct some overly simplistic narratives emerging from people who may be judging the game by the highlights and media headlines.


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