It is good it ended this way. Good that Joe Root resigned as England captain before the ECB finally got their act together and sacked him.
A decent man and one of England’s best ever batsmen deserved to go out on his own terms rather than being dragged kicking and screaming from a job he insisted he still wanted even in the Caribbean when all evidence demanded he must go.
There is no doubt Root, interim coach Paul Collingwood and the whole England set-up were in denial in the aftermath of the miserable defeat by West Indies in Grenada last month that extended their woeful run without victory to five Test series.
Joe Root deserved to go out on his own terms rather than being dragged from a job he wanted
It would have been understandable had Root said then he did not want to make any hasty decisions and would go home and take time with his family and his most trusted advisor in his agent Neil Fairbrother before deciding on his future.
Instead, desperate not to go out on such a low note, he insisted he was still the best man for the job and that England were not far away from everything clicking, views reinforced by Collingwood when he said he ‘couldn’t be more positive’ about Root.
Now the period of delusion has ended and common sense has prevailed. Root only kept the job after the Ashes because there simply was no-one else and now not even a complete lack of viable alternatives can extend a captaincy era that saw him record more victories than any other Englishman but also oversee more defeats than anyone else.
Perhaps Root saw the writing on the wall. Sportsmail expects Rob Key to be named England’s managing director next week and he has never appeared in his excellent work on Sky to be a huge fan of Root the captain. This stops the need for Key’s first job to be sacking a man who remains extremely popular with everyone in and around the dressing room. Not to mention England fans.
Ben Stokes should be considered for the job only if he’s in a good mental and physical place
This move, that came pretty much out of the Good Friday blue, also clears the way for Root’s trusted lieutenant and now the hot favourite to replace him in Ben Stokes to take the reins. So loyal is Stokes that he would never have stepped up had Root been sacked.
Whether it is right for England and Stokes to hand the poisoned chalice to their most important player ahead of a summer when they will face three of the best sides in the world in New Zealand, India and South Africa in seven Tests is another matter.
Stokes may be worshipped in the England dressing room, has a shrewd cricket brain and is one of the first names on the team-sheet but it is asking an awful lot of a man who took a break to protect his mental health only last year to take on the captaincy now.
Not to mention the physical demands on an all-action character seemingly always overcoming another injury, whether it was a side strain in the Ashes or a left knee damaged by the excessive bowling workload in the Caribbean that Root seemed powerless to prevent.
Interim managing director Sir Andrew Strauss will soon make his first appointment
Only if Stokes truly is in a good mental and physical place and if he significantly reduces his workload should his promotion be considered now.
He took a good first step by withdrawing from this year’s IPL to concentrate on Test cricket and Stokes should give up Twenty20 – and the Hundred – completely if he wants to be England Test captain.
Otherwise it is not good enough to say there is no-one else. There is always someone else. Whether it is Stuart Broad, seemingly persona non grata in the Caribbean but now one of the only real options, or an outsider like James Vince or, my preference, Sam Billings. None are ideal but that is an indictment on the state of English cricket.
As is the complete power vacuum in the domestic game. The ECB have no chair six months after Ian Watmore’s resignation, no head coach after the sacking of Chris Silverwood, no managing director, at least until interim Sir Andrew Strauss makes his first appointment, and now no captain.
It was left to Tom Harrison (pictured) to pay tribute to Root in the ECB statement on Friday
It says everything about the parlous state of the game that it was left to Tom Harrison, a dead man walking of a chief executive who will be out of a job in weeks, to pay tribute to Root in the ECB statement on Friday. There wasn’t anyone else.
Now that vacuum has to be filled fast. Key would be a good man to fill the first gap – underneath the jokey and self-deprecatory nature lies a sharp brain with strong views – and then he will have to get to work quickly before the first Test against New Zealand at Lord’s on June 2.
It will not be easy. Just as captaincy candidates are scarce most of the game’s best coaches prefer to concentrate on franchises now where they can earn a year’s money for only a few weeks work.
England want to appoint at least two of them, maybe three if a head coach oversees all cricket and has assistants have red and white ball responsibility. Not to mention a national selector should, as expected, they go back to their old selectorial system.
But England remain a big draw and it would be interesting to see Ottis Gibson’s response should Key attempt to lure him away from his early days at Yorkshire.
It is surprising, too, that the outstanding English candidate in Mark Robinson, a World Cup winner with England women and a Championship winner with Warwickshire last season, has not had more of a mention among the runners and riders. Look no further than Edgbaston, too, for the national selector where director of cricket Paul Farbrace is the obvious candidate.
For now time should be taken to acknowledge the job Root has done. In truth he was never a great captain but he was unlucky in his captaincy coinciding with England’s white-ball re-set and, latterly, the pandemic and the ill-fated rest and rotation policy.
Now he can concentrate, providing he doesn’t do anything silly like try to play more T20 cricket and the IPL, on breaking every record in the England Test book. At 31, he should have a good four or five years left to provide a batting rock for his successor.