Having led the team since February 2017, England Cricket Captain Joe Root stepped down from his role after admitting it was one of the most challenging decisions of his career.
A run of just 1 win from 17 test matches has ultimately pushed Root to a decision that has resulted in Ben Stokes being awarded the captaincy to take the squad forward.
Joe Root; The player
A fan-favourite amongst the travelling Barmy Army, Root has created some memorable moments with the bat and, in recent years, with the ball as his part-time spin option has been utilised with impressive effects when his side was in need of variation.
Root’s impressive performances for the side were encapsulated in a brilliant individual 2021, where the Yorkshire talisman totalled 1708 runs throughout the calendar year. Astonishingly, this was 1178 more runs than England’s next highest run scorer, Rory Burns. Throughout that stretch, Root scored a colossal 27.98% of England’s Test runs, leading the team by example despite a frustrating run of results. In such a troubled year for the side, Root’s performances with the bat were made even more crucial by the fact that the his side lost their opening two wickets for less than 20 runs in over 50% of the innings throughout the year.
As a result, England relied too heavily on the England Captain and flaws within the group, being emphasised by the poor run of results, led to pressure on Roots’ tenure as England’s leader; regardless of his own individual performances.
Joe Root; The Captain
In his 5 years in charge of the Test team, Root amassed more games, wins and defeats than any other England captain. In spite of the numbers, its’ the recent form, including a painful Ashes tour that left him in a treacherous position following the sides’ most recent defeat to the West Indies in Grenada.
Throughout the tenure of any English test captain however, the pinnacle of competition comes in the form of The Ashes; a 5-test series against Australia. In Roots’ 3 Ashes series’ as captain, he has endured a difficult period of Australian dominance. In those 15 tests, England recorded just two victories, alongside 3 draws and, more importantly, 10 losses.
When separated from the results, Root’s leadership style and manner in which he conducted himself immediately made him a popular important with England fans. A blistering start to his career as Test captain in 2017 made many wonder as to the levels that the side would ultimately reach after impressive wins at home and away, notably in Sri Lanka, laid the foundations for his tenure. In the end however, a slump in form that has left England in 6th place in the ICC Test Rankings (despite being ranked second in the world in the two shorter formats of the game) has resulted in Root removing himself from the role.
Root’s positivity and the ability to lead by example were notable qualities with which he led the Three Lions, with his form appearing to be unhindered by the demands of the role. In spite of this, it was the impact of these demands that ultimately led to his decision to step down from the role with the weight of captaincy taking its toll on his life away from the sport.
The Future of English Cricket
Whilst looking for two new Head Coaches, Rob Key has pledged to return England to winning ways through a selection criteria of picking the strongest players, rather than being guilty of ‘overthinking selection’; a principle that has caused some controversy in the final months of Roots’ tenure as captain.
Filling the vacancy left by Root stepping down is a role that few players would be capable of managing alongside maintaining their own personal levels of performance. From the group, one of the most consistently talismanic players in Ben Stokes will now lead his country for the first time in red-ball cricket.
Stokes’s performances on home soil in recent years have elevated him to a unique status within the cricketing world. The culmination of the 50-over World Cup with a Super Over in the Final, followed shortly after by one of the most iconic individual performances to salvage an Ashes series provided two of the most memorable moments in English Cricket history.
In his early days in charge, Stokes has confirmed a change in the batting line-up that will see Root return to batting at number 4, with himself coming to the crease at 6 in order to provide a wealth of experience throughout the team and any given innings.
With such a huge emphasis on the impact that the role has had on Root in recent months, Stokes being able to maintain the level of performance that he has done for the side in recent years will be of paramount importance to English cricket fans and the Barmy Army in particular.
Stokes has a busy summer of cricket through which to take the reins of England captain. A home stand that sees 3-test series against New Zealand and South Africa as well as the 6th and final test of the delayed series finale with India. With a number of ODI and T20 games interspersed throughout the red-ball summer in partial preparation for the World T20 tournament later this year. Despite the major tournament in October, the eyes of the English cricket world will be well and truly fixed on an intriguing summer. Whilst the world rankings suggest that 2 series’ and single match against India will be well matched with England at home, recent form suggests that the reality could be anything but. For Stokes, bringing a sense of assurance and quality to a side and fan base devoid of confidence in recent months will ultimately prove the catalyst behind which England can embark on a resurgence to the top of cricket world.