One of the more striking features of the ECB in recent years has been their ability to leak when it suits them, remain tight lipped when it doesn’t, and insist that they don’t leak at all at all times. So while Cook’s resignation was kept under wraps right up to the point it was announced, there can be little surprise at the heavily trailed news over the weekend – confirmed today – that Joe Root will be appointed England captain. By all accounts this was agreed on Saturday or Sunday in a phone call with Andrew Strauss, who presumably was using the bugged phone the ECB provide when they want news to get out. A day is a little slower than normal for it to reach the media – few will forget the way the supposedly private meeting between Strauss, Harrison and Pietersen ended up being reported in detail on Radio Five Live mere minutes after finishing for example. Sharpen up fellers.
Still, while the ECB deserve all the cynicism that comes their way for their repeatedly duplicitous behaviour (OK, this one is hardly a crime – but they shouldn’t have it go past without comment), it didn’t take a cricketing sage to work out that Root was more or less the only name in the frame once Cook had finally decided to go. Indeed, it is remarkable how the simple matter of the on-field captain has now been built up to become A Very Important Thing in a way that it never used to be. Sure, resignations and appointments to the role have always been big news, that’s no different – what is, is how long is taken over the process, as though the Nobel Committee were ruminating on a choice between Einstein and Newton. It’s natural to want to get it right of course, but it’s hard to get away from the feeling that pomposity and procedure is felt to directly correlate to importance – perhaps it is a direct response to the declining news footprint cricket now has in the British media. It is a disease afflicting a lot of sports these days – but news management has now eaten itself by becoming more important than the news itself.
Appointing Root was the blindingly obvious decision, and the possibility it wouldn’t be him only arose because the ECB, Strauss and Cook have taken so damn long over the matter in the first place. When Cook resigned the papers dutifully followed the line that he’d been thinking about it since the start – the start note – of the India leg of the winter tour. When the handover of the England captaincy takes longer than that of the US Presidency, something is a little peculiar. To be fair to Cook, if they’re going to allow him to take an age, then why should he rush, but it still reaches levels of absurdity to place the role on that kind of pedestal, with the fundamental difference that the England cricket captain, who hasn’t been especially successful in the role by any measure, was allowed to do all that for himself seemingly with no outside reference on whether he should be permitted that freedom.
What will prove interesting in future years will be whether Root himself is elevated to that level of God-like status, or whether Cook is an exception. For there are some similarities to Cook in the way that he has been groomed as most favoured son for some time now. It almost felt as though the only reason for a reluctance to move on more quickly was some lingering feeling that being a damn nice chap prevents any action in favour of the next damn nice chap.
Much has been made of Root’s inexperience in captaincy – a situation that is entirely inevitable in the modern game where playing county cricket is the exception rather than the rule for those who reach international level. It isn’t remotely relevant for the simple reason that unless things change radically in future, this is likely to be the case with every England captain forever more. Whether he succeeds or fails, it won’t be because of a lack of experience, it will be whether he is any good at it. For the fundamental point is this: There is no reason from the outside to assume any one player is a more natural captain than any other. Root might well be the ideal choice for captain, but then so might Ben Stokes, or so might Mark Wood. There is simply no reason to think one way or the other amongst those of us outside cricket beyond a certain kind of prejudice that we all carry within us. Root being a clean cut generally good egg from the right background certainly makes him suitable for the ECB marketing department, but it doesn’t mean for a moment he is the best on-field captain.
Lest this be thought to be making a case for Stokes or anyone else, it isn’t, but it is to highlight that the choice of captain always tends to be from a rather narrow set of parameters. As the years go on, the choice of Michael Vaughan stands out as being highly unusual from the usual mix of those whose nice background marked them out as being of the right stuff for the ECB. Again, it isn’t anything against Root himself, but it has been long made clear he was the heir apparent and no other candidates were ever put forward. To put it another way, Moeen Ali has some captaincy experience at both England U-19 level and for Worcestershire as a stand in – not much, but no less than Root, yet there was never any prospect of him being the one, and given he isn’t certain of his place in the side, that could easily be argued as to why not. This is where it gets into difficult territory, because there is no accusation whatever of discrimination on race grounds (Nasser Hussain belies that anyway), but more that it is simply rather hard to imagine the current ECB going with someone with such a normal personal history. Not impossible, for it does happen (Vaughan), and nor is it advocating that someone like Moeen should – it’s merely the case that the ECB is constituted by a certain type of person from a certain type of background, and they by default look for a similar kind of person in their captain. It’s probably unconscious, and echoed by a cricket media that is largely from the same kind of environment who have a tendency to approve of that line of thinking. They’ll hate that and deny it, but we all do the same thing in our lives, we instinctively support those similar. Let’s put it this way: how likely is it that the ECB would be keen to appoint a working class kid from the wrong side of the tracks as captain? It’s a little hard to credit.
For Root himself, there is the fear that his being chosen as captain will automatically impact on his batting, yet there is no reason to believe so. Cook himself didn’t suffer notably from being captain, his record before and during is fairly comparable; his batting problems when they occur are more a matter of him being a player at constant war with his technique than anything else. Likewise, to take England’s Australian counterparts, the three most recent incumbents have all performed superbly with the bat as captain. The fear that he will lose form is nothing but seeing the glass as being half empty – why shouldn’t he do a Graham Gooch for example?
Then there’s the question of what kind of captain Root will be. With so little experience it’s hard to know for sure, but the glimpses of him substituting for Cook tend to imply he’ll be rather more creative and attacking than was Cook, at least initially. The truth is that we don’t know for sure and won’t find out until later this summer. Having Cook to lean on should be an advantage, for whatever the merits or otherwise of his tenure, he will know what Root is going through better than anyone else. Nasser Hussain managed the transition back to player better than most; if Cook can do the same it will be unquestionably an asset to the side and to Root personally. It’s not an easy thing for Cook to do, and it’ll be hugely to his credit if he does it well. Likewise, Cook the batsman should – all things being equal – be of far more importance to the England Test side than Cook the captain. Being able to focus on that rather than the whole team may well liberate him to contribute heavily in the area that he is most valuable. This too is a matter of uncertainty, precisely for the same reasons that his batting didn’t unduly suffer by being the skipper, but if those who believe Root will lose form from being captain are right, then it follows that Cook should significantly increase his contributions too – it can’t be had both ways.
Perhaps one of the more notable parts of the announcement is by omission – that Root has been appointed the Test captain. As has been pointed out before, the England schedule over the next 2 years is bordering on the vicious, so it is at least good to see that he hasn’t been burdened with all the captaincy roles. There are enough fears for the longevity of those players who play all formats already, without making one of them captain and thus unable to easily miss some of the tours – or at least parts of some of the tours.
The instinctive reaction is that Root is a good choice for the job. There are never any guarantees, but he appears to possess the right blend of brains and mischievousness to make a go of it. Cook wasn’t a great captain, and to that end he does have a relatively low bar to get over; whether he will get quite the hagiographical coverage that Cook did in the cricket press is a different question. And in many ways, a deeply interesting one. If he’s only ever “hung out to dry” to the same extent, he’ll do well enough.
So they have all had their little circle jerk, and cried themselves a river. The king is dead, good riddance. What’s much more interesting is what comes next and why? And what comes next is Joe Root.
In between all the bleating about what a good bloke Cook is there seems to be a little inkling that this may not quite have been the dignified resignation they are making it out to be. The implication being that some people wanted the team to move in a more positive direction. Vic Marks hinted at this, although he gave all the credit to Cook for recognising this and moving aside. Was this a real resignation or a sacking? Was Cook given the preverbal bottle of whisky and a revolver? We will never know. They wouldn’t admit it even if it’s true.
However, there does seem to be a desire to move to a different approach. ( rather contradicting all the hot air about how great Cook was) But can this happen with Strauss and Flower in such dominant positions regards team selection, and tactics? Bowling dry seems to be the defacto position of the management. Will Root be allowed to be his own man, and does he have the talent, and imagination to deliver? He has little leadership experience, although that can be over come quite quickly if he has a natural charismatic character and some interesting ideas. We wait to see.
The big problem for Root, is still the hang over from the KP saga. The higher ups seem to have become suspicious of individualism and flair. Group think and application have been the blueprint. Can a new captain change this even if he wants to? The signs are that some people are quite excited by the new Root era. I saw a tweet from Bumble saying as much. Suddenly attacking cricket is all the rage. A slight note of caution here. Attacking cricket in Tests can’t be ……” Come on lads lets play like the 20/20 team.” Batting in particular has still got to be about building innings. However, if some more imaginable field settings can be tried it will be welcome. One wonders where all these pundits have been hiding for the last two years?
In addition we still have a clique in the dressing room. Broad said in his interview that the senior players need to be consulted on the appointment . Why? Who is running the show? If things start to go wrong will these players be prepared to dig in or start leaking to the media?
And speaking of the the 4 th estate, we have to mention the dreaded media. Their behaviour over the next couple of years is going to be very interesting. Will they continue to elevate the England captain to god like status or will we return to a bit more balance? To a degree that will depend on how Root does, and whether he plays ball with them. Will he contine the candle lit dinners where he pours out his heart to them, and bemoans players he doesn’t think merrit a selection? If the leaking tap gets fixed, Newman will have to earn his money coming up with his own ideas.
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Bloody hell, it’s not about funky field placings, it’s about not bowling 2 feet wide of off stump and hoping for an edge. It’s about a few overs of yorkers and throat balls ;then a few overs of leggies with a field that makes it hard to milk singles…. A Warne field.
So, they made a big deal about interviewing stokes and broad as well, and that strauss spoke to butler on the phone.
Indeed I think I read that strauss ‘consulted’ senior players (can’t remember the exact wording or where I read it. Probably BBC or guardian).
How come no one consulted Morgan? He’s skipper of the white ball team. Butler is only vice skip and is not really in the test team properly.
Meanwhile the Cricketer needs to let it go…
That’s in the last three days…..
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The best part of those tweets is that they admit that Sachin is ‘beyond the horizon’.
But don’t the ecb not like players who have personal targets….
Could someone listen to this podcast for me to advise me whether it is the weapons grade clash of egotistical show-offs it looks like being.
If Root wants real change he may find he doesn’t want Cok standing at first slip giving his half baked theories.
It would appear Cooks only interest now is chasing Sachin. This could get messy if his form goes off, and other openers appear on the horizon. The cricketer magazine will support him until the end. But as usual they put Cooks own interest above that of the team.
Funny that, because that was the charge against KP. The wheel has turned full circle.
Isn’t love a wonderful thing?
Ha! That wasn’t an entirely random statment in honour of Valentine’s Day, it was supposed to be a comment on the dog-like devotion of The Cricketer….
@zeph, pretty apt for Valentine’s Day too 🙂
Today on The Cricketer feed…
Not sure this one was captured in last night’s…
Meanwhile at The Tufty Club, England play a football World Cup in 2019.
Don’t try to pull that you meant the Women’s World Cup. We finished 3rd last time, and QF would not be a “heroic failure”.
Plus the writing isn’t tight. We “reclaim the Ashes” (is that different from “regain”?) but “Root’s title is well-deserved. His run-scoring exploits in the 2017/18 Ashes helped England hold on to the little urn 18 months ago and become No.1 in the world across all forms. There has even been a nine per cent increase in babies being called ‘Alfred’, the name of Root’s son.”
I think we write for different audiences.
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I’ve finally read that. I want to have some of what he’s been taking!
I’m sorry if I upset too many Outsiders but I just can’t see Root making a successful captain at least for 2 or 3 years.He isn’t mature, quite stupid at times and doesn’t have “man management skills” . Think ECB have just made the same stupid mistake again. Will they ever learn????
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No need to apologise for an opinion. You might be right.
How is Root quite stupid?
Well, with at most 1 out of 3, Cook was apparently an unprecedented success …
I remember being surprised by Nasser getting the captaincy – so it’s not just Vaughan as an outlier. I rather like the Aussie approach: pick a team and then select the captain. I still don’t understand this reverence we give to the role. What matters is that the appointee is an automatic choice and does the captain thing adequately. So for Nasser, was he an automatic choice as a batter? OK I was not following cricket closely at the time, but he was a “best available” selection rather than a Hobbs or Sutcliffe. No captaincy experience but he was single-minded and had a vision.
Vaughan had enjoyed his great year and was showing signs of reverting to the mean. No captaincy experience and yet he proved to be a natural. Where did that come from?
Strauss did it by numbers but was solid and inspired his team.
Flintoff was stuck in a Botham mark 2 paradigm. If you are a natural, you are unlikely to be a good captain unless you get the team out of trouble all the time, eg Sobers.
Cook was a Strauss mark 2 – Strauss without the force of personality.
Look up the 1905 Ashes. The England captain had no captaincy experience. His counterpart was the Ian Chappell of the 1900s.
High hopes for Root if the powers-that-be let him be captain.
Cook is in limbo. His recent run of form was insufficient enough to get Carberry, Robson, Compton sacked.
It was why I was trying to steer away from any question of race, which would be completely unfair. But Hussain still had a fairly ‘one of us’ background, with his schooling and so forth. So perhaps not as left field as it appeared on the surface. Still, I fully take your point.
I guess the Aussies would probably have chosen Thorpe over Nasser as he was the best player. Sometimes the Aussie system gets things wrong, notably Ian Craig rather than Benaud. Maybe Yallop rather than Rod Marsh in 1981. And, I would like to reiterate, I was thinking of Nasser purely in terms of his batting and whether he was one of the top 4 English batsmen. It was Atherton, Stewart, Thorpe and… Hick, Ramps, Hussain,… And then Butch came into the mix…
I have a habit of ignoring the parts of a post I agree with – sorry, I wasn’t taking issue!
Ray Illingworth was a gruff Yorshireman as captain. Tony Greig came with a SA accent. Brearley was Oxbridge, but with a twist. He was into phycology not banking. Then they tried state schooled Ian Botham. Bob Willis was an interesting choice, not least because he was a fast bowler. Very rarely to they get the captaincy. Then the more traditional Gower, then back to slightly less lofty Mike Gatting and Gooch.
Atherton Gramar school, and again Oxbridge. Stewart I think was state education but not sure. Nasser obviously brings in the race issue, and then Vaughn. Strauss was always seen as posh, and then Cook.
I can’t remember ever hearing about “the right kind of family” as a criteria in any of these previous captains until we got to Cook.
But the ECB now is not the TCCB of then. Not in terms of personnel making these kinds of decisions. It’s not a given that those people would have thought that way, I’m asking if THESE people now do.
MIAB, you mean Kim Hughes rather than Yallop in 1981. Yallop was captain earlier in ’78/79 during Packer – Bob Simpson had come back for the first two series during Packer but when he retired (again) Yallop got the job (he was by far the most experienced player available to Australia at that time, having been capped back in ’75/76 – and given a tough time by the senior players who were angry McCosker had been dropped he claimed).
I read somewhere that Ramprakash was the expected captain in 1999 – but Hussain got the captaincy by out-performing him at interview.
Yallop’s Lambs to the Slaughter book about the 5-1 Ashes hammering is a fine example of a skipper being undermined at every turn, from within and without.
Well caught Simon. It was Hughes. But he also came to a rather sad end, squeezed between Chappell G, Marsh and other “senior” players, as I recall.
I’m feeling optimistic and positive about Root’s appointment. I hope that Bayliss is powerful in his support of Joe, especially if the senior players are tetchy. Agnew claims that Joe has to earn the trust of the bowlers. I reckon the bowlers should be earning the trust of the captain and the manager – all the time.
Hopefully, this heralds the start of the New Era we’ve been promised for so long. Being outside the conventional attitude, I’m not bothered what the results are against WI and SA so long as England grow and become better equipped to take on Aus in the Ashes.
Looking forward, it appears that England Under 19s haven’t heard that English batsmen can’t cope with spin in alien conditions. 501 – 5 ain’t bad
“With the jettisoned Kevin Pietersen cackling maniacally behind the scenes”.
The Guardian make the mistake of letting Barry Glendenning anywhere near cricket.
You could rewrite that sentence to apply to The Guardian itself.
With the old owners of the Guardian Jettisoned, the new owners, a cabal of Washington neo con organisations cackling manically behind the scenes. While still trying to pretend their newspaper is of the left.
Seriously, in all the talk about “attacking” and “exciting”, I get the growing feeling this England team lack fight. See the batting collapses and the bad falling-off at the end of series.
Also Hussain says, “I’m not concerned about Root’s workload” which must please the ECB but also must make him just about the only one. He says Kohli, Smith and Williamson are coping – but Kohli is playing in the No.1 side, Smith has been rested for two recent ODI series and NZ don’t play as much as the Big Three.
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“Will he have a Plan B? Will he be able to think outside the box, an area where his predecessor Alastair Cook was lacking.”
Funny all this is all coming out now? I don’t remember him telling us in India a few months ago that there was no plan B.
The media seem to be airbrushing away the last 3 years of their terrible anyalsis. Suddenly, exciting cricket is all the rage. They really have no shame. Unless of course it all goes wrong. In which case we will get the balame for hounding Cook out of a job.
Did you expect much different with them? They will have been wilfully ignoring a 5-0 and 4-0 loss as reasons why we’ve supposedly helped “hound him out” for two. And 3 years after we first wanted it in any case.
Something annoying: Root’s new job isn’t ‘Captain of England’, it’s Test captain, but it keeps being presented as if he’ll be captain overall. The journalists were always doing that with Cook, making him the major figurehead/representative of the nation/blah, as if the one-day sides don’t count. In Morgan’s place, I would have been seriously annoyed, but I think he’s more pragmatic than me.
So all the BTL commenters worrying about the massive workload affecting Root’s batting should consider exactly how much he’ll have to do. On the other hand, with the lunatic schedule ahead, plus increasing evidence that the way he plays in ODI/T20s isn’t that great for the modern game, Root might be well advised to become a Test specialist as a player.
I feel cheerful about this appointment, I think Root’s matured a lot and the partnership with Stokes could be very productive.
Root is very much a fit in ODIs & T-20s but probably is not a fit in India. Rahane for example is not good in India too but is useful outside India.in LOIs.Smith & Kohli are currently capable of fitting in in ODIs/T-20s anywhere
Do you mean Stokes the bits and pieces player, and mercenary to boot?….as he has been variously described BTL…I sometimes wonder what bloody planet some of these clowns live on…they probably wear egg n bacon ties as well!!!
The right kind of families!!
“The fathers of England’s new captain and his deputy were talking to the Guardian after seeing their sons successfully go through their first ever job interviews, a nervous affair for a parent at the best of times.”
Really? REALLY? How old are their sons, 9? Seriously, is this what is classed as journalism at The Guardian these days?
Root and Stokes have both got children of their own, but you wouldn’t think it. Seems like ‘steely hero’ may be replaced by ‘lovable pesky kids’.
I’ve been watching a 1981 film ‘Circle of Power’ on Youtube.
It has an evil corporation sending its middle managers on a training course where their personalities are deconstructed by a mixture of psychological manipulation and physical threat. The aim is create ambitious and pliable corporate clones. It’s “based on a true story”.
Why this had me thinking of the ECB I don’t know (although if Andy Flower grew his hair he could look a little like Yvette Mimieux).
Looks like Morne won’t be having a long career left – which makes the Abbott-Kolpak move even more of an issue for CSA.
Pringle on why bowlers aren’t appointed captain:
A possibly reasonable case drowned out by the noise of axes grinding.
Peter May, as Establishment as you could wish for, appointed Bob Willis as England captain. Gubby Allen and Freddie Brown were also annointed. Botham was also captain. Maybe Pringle lacks any knowledge whatsoever. The problem with picking a bowler is that he must be selectable in all circumstances, even if the pitch is green or crumbling. Bowlers often get injured.
2 big reasons not to pick bowlers as captains. But, as long as they are on the park, they can be good captains. The real problem is that bowlers and keepers have to think about their own game as well as the team ;so it is much easier for batters.
Imran and Ray Illingworth for me stand out as good captains during the time I have watched cricket. Both of them all rounders with strong opinions. Not necessarily compatible with the ECB
Meanwhile, back in the real world of cricket, there is this. The latest spiffing wheeze from the avaricious weasels at the ECB. “Grow the game” “Increase participation”…bollocks!
This is participation by corporatism and the wholesale destruction of the cricket community
Shocking. The ECB are the enemy of cricket. They have become like the Soviet Union. Centralising all power to a bunch of crony, incompetent fools. Regional accadamies will be stacked by “jobs for the boys” ECB scumbags.
Can you imagine an accadamy system run by the ECB with a Flower clone overseeing the whole corrupt system? Input form charlatan’s like the Anyalist and other fakes.
Whenever the governing body get involved they always screw it up. Look at the LTA in tennis. They have produced hardly anyone of any ability despite having millions thrown at them for decades. Andy Murry had his own tennis connections through his family. Look at the much vaunted FA system. Very few succsess to boast about. The better players come through the clubs.
Whenever governing bodies run anything it always turns to shit. Becuae the people in governing bodies are mostly time serving incompetents who can’t get jobs anywhere else.
Funny how significant, damaging the Counties, enhancing the City franchise at the expense of anyone standing in it’s way stuff, kinda sneaked out during the Cook/Root love -in?
A neat way to bury bad news eh?
Holy cow, the Guardian has an article about the governance of the global game and has enabled comments:
That’s our ration for this year done.
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I don’t have time to say everything to JohnPrice I’d like to. Because someone questions the business model, they must be a bloody pinko Communist, and screw the many many issues that can’t be addressed by “what do I get?”.
I also remain bewildered by hblove on this subject. His point 3 is just staggering for someone with that much knowledge.
“3) what stops countries like saf and nz and pak from playing one in tests and making money? those matches, between quality teams, are not remunerative enough or are they? why should the bcci and the ecb and ca (mostly the bcci, from the sounds of it) subsidize those countries?”
JohnPrice was a Middlesex seamer who was one of Selvey’s big heroes in the game.
Oh surely not… He wouldn’t… would he?
If it is JSE Price, then he is 79 years old!
I just saw this article too – I should not be surprised someone had posted it here already!! I didn’t go BTL though….
I thought it was quite a good article, if it had been written in 2014. Where was this when Selfy was deriding DOAG saying he hadn’t watched it.
It’s a Tim Wigmore one. Blame the Guardian for not covering it, that’s fair enough – but he’s been banging on about this for quite a few years.
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The Guardian carries two stories within a day that carry (especially to the casual reader) the central message “these reforms are great, only the horrid BCCI are a problem, get behind these changes”?
Hmm, I’m starting to sniff a rodent I’m afraid.
I’m not having a dig at Wigmore (to be honest I know the name but couldn’t actively recall his articles / tone without looking into it!).
More of a general surprise that I’ve seen something about it.
Another sign of the-times-they-are-a-changin’ –
I don’t full agree with it, but thought-provoking stuff on the ICC goings-on:
An enjoyable piece of frippery from a proper cricket writer, with sufficient spikes at the regime…