Joe Root and the cycle

A great batter, a captain, and the future

So with Joe Root I have been thinking about something a lot, and weirdly, it has probably appeared much in cricket. Here we see someone made captain because they are the best batter, fine, normal, ok. Root is obviously a bit next level beyond that. An absolute great batter that will go down as a legend of English cricket.

But his team has lost a lot, and therefore his captaincy gets more stick than another captain would receive if they won. All following me so far.

England re now looking for a head coach and a Test captain. One of the names that England and many in the media have pushed is Ricky Ponting.

He who was the best batter in his team, made captain largely because of this, and then was ridiculed because of his lack of tactical nous. But his team won, mostly.

And then when he went into the commentary job he spoke better than others and is now seen as a coach again after racking up a few wins in the IPL. If you listen to Mark Taylor in the commentary box, he doesn't sound as insightful as Ponting, yet everyone raved about his tactical nous.

So what I am wondering is some time in five to ten years, when Root is rightfully seen as the greatest English batter of the modern era, will he be back as coach, or director of cricket, or chief selector, head scout, or grand Poobah emperor lord of English cricket.

But what will he have learned about cricket by then that he didn't as England's longest-serving captain? But he will be back, either in a position, or at least, the press will call for him.

I have had doubts about Root's captaincy pretty much from the start. I think tactically he is a bit algorithmic. In limited overs it works because that is a game that can almost be worked out by equations. But test cricket is so much harder than that. I also think he's seen by some of his own senior players as not quite a leader of men. Now this might be their idea of a leader, rather than reality. But I still think it is there.

But I also believe that this is largely nonsense, as the more research I do into Test cricket the more I think captains are overrated. Sure, back in Mike Brearley and beyond years, when a captain was a manager, coach, psychologist and the guy who worked out the best route to the ground, captains were huge. But many of those jobs are taken by other people now.

Root had some juggling of five-man bowling line-ups, which is tricker than a four-man where you mostly replace people when they are tired. And there is always the fields, but we don't track them, so much of that is mainly speculative bullshit.

But Root is gone, hounded by the never ending narrative and the fact his team played a really hard schedule, were often preparing for another format by resting Test players, have had trouble taking 20 wickets away from home and have one batter with a batting average over 40. Which, of course, is him.

That leads us to Ben Stokes. Who we are assuming is going to be more tactical dynamic than Root, and who will lead England by example. That doesn't really hold up, as why would the England players suddenly be more inspired by him now than before.

And wasn't Root leading by example, being the only guy who could make runs. Literally making around three times as many last year seems pretty leadery by examply to me.

There may well be a boost for Stokes when he first takes over. But England still can't bat, England still struggle to take wickets overseas, and they just lost to the West Indies while trying to find themselves.

Stokes can run through a brick wall for his team, but unless he does that and finds a spinner on the other side, they're still going to struggle in Asia.

Ofcourse they could just select Stuart Broad as captain. Which I believe is like a guy telling his girlfriend that he isn't ready for her to meet his parents, then a week later asking her to marry him.

Even if you think Root was a bad captain, it's hard to win consistently with a team like this. The system seems to be broken in English cricket, but England seem hell bent on looking for magic men who can fix it all.

Rob Key is being compared to Ravi Shastri, but Shastri was a coach, not parachuted into management through panic. Key might be brilliant in this role, but hiring someone who has never done it before, and probably doesn't understand the stress and strain of this all-encompassing role, is a big leap of faith.

As for Joe Root, it's incredible England hounded him only to offer, or even ask casually across a late-night WhatsApp if Ricky Ponting wouldn't to be coach. It looks now like Ponting has passed, which was always likely. But the interest itself is, well, interesting.

If people in Australia questioned Ponting's funkless fielding placements - and they did, sell all channel 9 broadcasts - then it was even worse in the UK. In 2005, and again in 2009, the narrative on Ponting was he was tactically inept, a great batter. Still, nothing without his star bowlers dominating and his batting lineup backing them up.

That's a whole new narrative to bother Joe Root as he learns how to sleep at night again.

It's weird how often the players we say are broken, not up to it, can't get it down, become so important when the team is losing. There is pattern here; I just can't quite put my finger on it.