England’s Ashes hopes this summer have gone in wrong direction as their performances drift from bad to worse with each passing Test match. Ben Stokes’ innings of a lifetime, an unbeaten 135 in the Headingley Test did manage to bring back smiles in the English camp, but that seemed as short as a passing shower as Australia came back harder at Old Trafford in the fourth Test to retain the urn.
In the midst of high-octane drama surrounding the home team involving a lot of talk about team changes, batting failures of senior players like Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler, inability of Root to lead the side, burden of captaincy affecting his batting and his possible sacking as a captain have been on the top of the radar as England look to play for pride and for crucial Test championship points in the fifth and final Test at Oval, London.
However, one question that seems to have no answers is, if not Root, who is capable enough to lead England in Test matches? And to be fair, England hardly have any choices.
The openers Rory Burns and Joe Denly are new to the international arena having played barely 11 and seven Tests respectively so far. Also, Denly’s batting position is still unclear as to whether he should open or bat at No.4 and his place in the side is not safe either.
Ben Stokes is definitely a worthy to be a captain candidate, but he is already overworked as the southpaw is a genuine all-rounder, contributing as a proper batsman and a proper bowler consistently apart from being a livewire on the field. Moreover, he is a potential match-winner with either the bat or the ball not only in Tests, but also in white-ball cricket. In such a scenario, the selectors and the team management will probably not want to burden him further with the captaincy role right now as he is in prime form. However, he is a future candidate for sure.
Jonny Bairstow has been around for a while now, having played 68 Tests so far and has delivered few memorable innings for his side too. Being a wicket-keeper batsman of the side for more than five years now, captaincy would increase his responsibilities manifold and with the exception of Mahendra Singh Dhoni for India, we hardly come across a wicket-keeper leading the side in Tests, do we?
And the last option, Stuart Broad. The tall, lanky and the controversial fast bowler seems to be too temperamental to lead the English side. He just turned 33 this June and having lived the life of a fast bowler at International stage, serving his country well for over a decade now, Broad might run out of steam at any time soon, crumbling either with injuries or fitness.
It is true that Joe Root’s batting average has taken a tremendous suffering ever since he took over the captaincy from Alastair Cook. His average of 40.87 as a captain against his average of 52.8 not as a captain are a clear indication that the 28-year old Englishman is feeling the burden and pressure of captaincy.
But, given that, except Joe Root, the current English team does not have any individual who can take over the captaincy from him the way he succeeded Cook in the summer of 2017.
When Nasser Hussain was the skipper of the side back in early 2000’s, being the best batsman of the side then, Michael Vaughan succeeded Hussain, Cook took over the captaincy role from Andrew Strauss at the peak of his prowess, Joe Root was always identified as future captain during Cook’s tenure and rightly succeeded him two summers back.
But, neither is Root too old to give up his captaincy so soon nor do England have a potential member who is capable enough to lead the side in red-ball cricket and English have no other option than to persist with Root as the skipper, at least for a little longer, irrespective of the outcome in the final Test at The Oval.