Will Joe Root be a success as England captain?

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14 February
10:57
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14 February
14:11

He is the right man for the job. He was vice-captain so it would have been weird if it had gone to anyone else. He’s been talked about for a couple of years now so he’s definitely the right man for the job.

I’m not too fussed about whether it will take away anything from his game. That’s a very English worry to have. Alastair Cook averaged fractionally more as captain than he did as a non-captain, and I think that said something about his mental strength. Root is similarly mentally strong and I think he will deal with that.

Other batting stars around the world have all faced this issue and they’ve all dealt with it really well. The batting averages of Virat Kohli, Kane Williamson and Steve Smith have all gone up after assuming captaincy so there is no reason to assume Root can’t do the same.

Whether he’ll be a good captain remains to be seen. He certainly hasn’t had much experience. One of the problems English cricketers face now is that the captains have to learn on the job. They’re fast-tracked out of county cricket, so they don’t get the chance to hone their skills at their counties.

"He’s seen how a captain operates, and he does have his wits about him. He’ll have soaked a lot up, perhaps even without realising it"

That inexperience is an issue, but then again he’s stood in the slips for 50-odd Tests now and he’s been next to Cook. So he’s seen how a captain operates, and he does have his wits about him. He’ll have soaked a lot up, perhaps even without realising it. So I’m not too fussed about that.

I think the key thing for him is whether he tries to captain in a different style to Cook. If he can be a bit bolder, more aggressive and more attacking I think it would help. It’s what this team needs. They’re a team of attacking players. Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali, Root himself, Jos Buttler, when he’s in the Test team… these are guys that don’t need much encouragement to go after the ball. Teams fear England most when they attack. They’re a good team when they do that. So the challenge for Root is to take the team to the next level of their evolution.

"Root is part of that brand of multi-format stars who know how to switch from one format to the other"

Alastair Cook was very much an old-school Test captain, in that he only played Test cricket - certainly at the end of his captaincy. Whereas Root is part of that brand of multi-format stars who know how to switch from one format to the other and if he’s able to translate any of the white ball aggression into the Test team he will.

The important thing to consider is that the coach Trevor Bayliss likes that style. There were a couple of signs in India that were some disagreements between Cook and Bayliss over what approach to adopt. Bayliss wants the players to be positive both in attack and defence, and my guess is that Root will tick that box without having to force it.

A lot will depend on whether Root trusts his instincts. He might err on the side of caution to begin with; that could happen. After four Tests against South Africa, he’s got three against the West Indies, which England should win, so he should go into the Ashes next winter with a win under his belt which will help.

Maybe nothing can prepare an England captain for leading his country in Australia but he’s got a chance and he’ll be 60 Tests to the good by then so he shouldn’t be too fazed.

The 2017 edition of the Wisden Cricketers' Almanack is published on 6 April.

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