And there was me, all smug, thinking that I could put my computer to one side and enjoy the bank holiday without writing any copy. And then Root suddenly decides to resign. Thanks for that, Joe.
To be honest, though, I guess we should have seen this one coming. Root’s position, in hindsight, was probably untenable. We’ve won, what, about one of the last seventeen Tests? That’s a pitiful record really. Joe was probably too embarrassed to carry on.
The big question, of course, is how much of this dismal run was actually down to his captaincy? I’d wager very little. Joe clearly isn’t the best captain tactically but neither is he the reason why England have been losing consistently to just about everyone.
The real problem has obviously been the dearth of talent at Root’s disposal. And that’s not going to improve anytime soon. We’ll probably be crap for ten years, or even longer if white ball cricket and The Hundred remains the ECB’s priority rather than the championship.
How will I remember Joe’s tenure as captain? Well, it hasn’t been easy for sure. But I genuinely think that Root can hold his head up high. He’s endured all sorts of problems, only the minority of which were of his making, and he’s maintained his dignity in the face of humiliation quite admirably. I actually think I respect him more now than when he first took on the job, which might be a first for a losing England captain.
Was he right to call it a day? I don’t really know. Probably. But I’m also quite anxious about who will replace him. After all, there are no good alternatives. All the names I’ve heard on social media – Stokes, Buttler, Billings, Bairstow, Moeen, Vince, Broad, Burns, Morgan – would all be terrible choices for very different reasons. The job at hand is simply to pick the least terrible option.
So who would I pick? First, let me tell you who’s most likely to get it. I think they’ll offer the job to Stokes, regardless of his past or his mental health, and pray that he accepts it – which he might or might not. At least he’s guaranteed a place in the side (unlike the others).
The cynic in me, however, thinks there might be a movement to appoint Eoin Morgan. After all, the public like him, he has a Brearley-esque reputation, and more importantly (from the ECB’s point of view), he’s pro-Hundred and agrees with the board that domestic red ball cricket just simply isn’t worth bothering with. I can see the post-match interviews now:
Hussain: “So, Eoin, that’s five defeats in a row, what are your thoughts?”
Morgan: “It’s all good thanks Naz, Test cricket is dying anyway, and there’s a really important T20 series against Bangladesh coming up. That gives us a great opportunity to get some wins on the board”.
Obviously appointing Morgan would be an absolute farce, and a kick in the nuts to just about everyone who cares deeply about the red ball game. However, we live in strange times. And the people making this decision might care more about the optics that anything else. Inspirational World Cup winning captain, who turned around the fortunes of the ODI side, set to rescue the Test team, too, might make for attractive messaging. Obviously I’m being facetious here, but nothing would really surprise me at this point.
As for the other candidates, the only one I would remotely consider is Stuart Broad on a short-term basis. However, he’s been far too outspoken in the media in recent times so I imagine the ECB would prefer to stick their todgers in a blender than appoint him.
I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens. Maybe a new candidate will ‘emerge’, a bit like Tory leaders, and the identity of that man could very well depend on who gets the MD job. If it’s Rob Key, then the odds on Billings would fall dramatically.
The things that strikes me, however, is the absolutely paucity of proper candidates. In years gone by, the baton was normally passed to a senior batsman (or other senior player). But this time there are no other senior players. Absolutely nobody, other than Root and Stokes, is guaranteed a place in the side. Yes, England’s Test team really is that bad. It’s absolutely shambolic.
So the sinking ship that is English cricket will limp on, with its tallest sail barely visible above the water line, and slowly edge towards the next iceberg. And it will do so, for the time being, with no chairman, no managing direction, no head coach, no skipper, and (soon enough) no CEO.
English cricket is, to stretch this analogy to its very limits, completely rudderless. But we’ve all known that for years anyway.
You’re better off out of it, to be honest, Joe. And you go with my best wishes, respect, and blessing.