LONDON: Joe Root flew on Wednesday to join the England one-day tour to India with expectation growing that Alastair Cook is about to stand down as Test captain.
When Cook’s departure is confirmed by the England and Wales Cricket Board, with an announcement expected this week, then Root will be appointed Test captain at the age of 26 and just over four years since his debut.
Cook has been mulling over his future since the end of the India tour and sources have indicated he is ready to walk away from the job after four years and 59 matches in charge.
Root is the only candidate to take over, with Ben Stokes almost certain to be appointed his deputy, and lead England’s Ashes campaign in Australia later this year.
To remain as captain Cook will have had to commit to the Ashes tour next winter and he looked exhausted by the job at the end of seven Tests in Asia, which culminated in a heavy innings defeat in Chennai as England conceded their highest-ever score in Test cricket and India won the series 4-0.
It followed England suffering their first Test defeat to Bangladesh and in total the team lost eight times in 2016, their worst year since 1993, although they did play a whopping 17 matches.Only a persuasive case put forward by Andrew Strauss, the team director, or someone close to him will prevent Cook from going and paving the way for Root’s ascendancy. Cook has always insisted he will do what is right for the team.
He remains a respected figure in the dressing room and commands the support of the players but will be aware that a senior core of Root, Stokes and Jonny Bairstow has emerged over the past 12 months and is ready to take the side in a new direction.
Root’s departure for India was delayed by the birth of his first child, a son, on Saturday, and he is understood not to have had any indication over Cook’s future. He will miss England’s first warm-up match in Mumbai but will be available for the opening one-day international against India in Pune on Sunday.
There is a traditional conservatism within English cricket about the right time to promote a captain and, at 26, Root would be the youngest since Mike Atherton 23 years ago to be officially appointed. Atherton was 25, and Cook was the same age when he led England twice in Bangladesh in 2010 as a stand-in for Strauss, but had to wait a further two years to get the job full time.
Root has barely any captaincy experience beyond a handful of championship matches for Yorkshire two years ago, but there is no other candidate among the England team at present.
Cook leaving now gives Root six months to become accustomed to taking over as Test captain. England are now concentrating on white-ball cricket with three 50-over matches in India and three T20s before a short ODI tour to the West Indies next month, which leads in to the Champions Trophy in this country at the start of June.
Root would not lead England until the Test series against South Africa, which starts at Lord’s on July 6, and will provide a difficult first series, even though they have been hit by a number of Kolpak defections to county cricket.
South Africa beat Australia away at the end of last year and English pitches will suit their strong seam attack. An easier series will be expected against the West Indies at the end of the summer before England fly to Australia where, on the last tour, Root was dropped during the 5-0 annihilation that almost ended Cook’s captaincy. Since then Cook regained the Ashes in 2015 and won in South Africa last year.
But he signalled his intention to resign in a magazine interview published on the eve of the series in India in November and speculation followed him around for the rest of the tour.
Courtesy : Dawn News