“His captaincy has been very disappointing and he has to seriously think about whether he is suited for the job and whether it is affecting his batting.”
So said Sir Geoffrey Boycott after England lost the Ashes under Root.
The former Yorkshire and England opener was one of several prominent voices who criticised Root’s leadership after last week’s defeat in the fourth Test at Old Trafford.
Although Boycott and co are entitled to their view, born of years of experience of playing and watching, the real reason why England lost the Ashes is not because of Root’s leadership, a World Cup hangover, fatigue, injury or anything else.
It is a simple reflection of the priorities of the England and Wales Cricket Board: namely, their almost complete obsession with the white-ball game and trying to make as much money as possible.
If you shoehorn the County Championship into the season’s margins, when conditions are much harder for batting and favour dibbly-dobbly seam bowlers, if you reduce the number of Championship fixtures and introduce concepts such as The Hundred, something which 90 per cent of existing fans do not want, then you are not going to be winning many Ashes series, only making things harder for yourself.
That, of course, is just the tip of the iceberg, with the lack of English spin bowlers and the flawed Loughborough pathway system among other problems with the English game.
However, rather like football, it seems, there must be a scapegoat, and Root is the fall-guy in some people’s eyes.
Instead of blaming the captain, however, we should be blaming the system, and Root is doing his best with some pretty meagre resources on the batting front especially. Indeed, why have we struggled to find opening batsmen since the Andrew Strauss/Alastair Cook partnership?
Because the system doesn’t encourage their development and technical expertise.
Ditto the paucity of Test quality spinners. Consequently, we have white-ball specialists such as Jason Roy being pushed up to open the batting and, surprise, surprise, being found out as a result.
We also have a situation in which the ECB fast-tracked the Barbados-born pace bowler Jofra Archer in their expedient desire to win the World Cup, and we have Kolpak players such as Yorkshire’s Duanne Olivier in a county system in which we need to develop home-grown talent.
It is the system that is the problem – always the system.
Unfortunately, nothing is going to change anytime soon. The Hundred isn’t going to be dramatically stopped, like some public execution whereby a pardon suddenly comes just as someone is about to lose their head.
The ECB aren’t interested.
The Championship is not going to suddenly be rescheduled or boosted in terms of the numbers of games. If anything, it is likely to shrink further in the coming years and possibly die out altogether. And, even if changes were introduced, there would be scant time for them to take effect before the next Ashes series in 2021-22.
Granted, Root may not be the perfect captain, and may still be learning in a difficult job. But to assume that taking the captaincy off him would make the slightest difference to the bigger picture is papering over the cracks.