Ah, the Mankad. Has any single sporting action ever caused so much furious debate?
It’s not often that a batsman with an average just below 50 comes under the hammer.
It’s also not often it happens that a man, despite crafting vital knocks, looks adrift in ability as compared to his rivals. However, Joe Root takes centre stage as England wilted in the face of reclaiming the Ashes from their arch-rivals.
But the thing of it is, the sparkling touch Steve Smith has been in starting from Edgbaston has further piled the pressure on Root. The English skipper began his Ashes on a positive note, striking a half-century.
Sure, another non-conversion of his 50 to three figures formed the part of a deep-rooted debate. Nonetheless, his colleagues lent their support that masked his failure to convert his knock into a daddy hundred.
And the debate and the criticisms were going to get more intense after getting castled by a snorter from Pat Cummins at the Old Trafford in the second innings. Prior to the golden duck at Manchester, Root sustained a couple more in the series. He had been found out.
And having been figured out wasn’t an option for England. Thrice the right-hander became the victim of deliveries that moved away off the seam with the new ball.
Joe Root’s men didn’t have a colossus named Steve Smith in their ranks to perform rescue acts almost all the time. Their version of Steve Smith was the captain himself. Not that Root’s constant inability to convert his 50s into an enormous score is forgivable, but the rest of the batsmen are equally to blame for sacrificing the Ashes.
Root, the tactician, hasn’t been fruitful enough either. Indeed, Smith’s masterclass has given sleepless nights to the Root-led England since the Ashes in Australia. They seldom had a chance to celebrate his dismissal like they have got him out without Smith throwing his scalp away.
And against a batsman like Smith, the half-chances are all you get sometimes. Dropped catches and reprive of a no-ball – Smith will make you pay. The captain’s decision to go defensive post-tea on day four further let the baggy greens get a grip on the Test.
Selecting Craig Overton over Chris Woakes didn’t make things any better for them either. That Root over bowled his new-ball bowlers and underutilized another magician with the red cherry was baffling.
Yes, Overton delayed kept delaying the inevitable and gave the fans a tinge of hope. However, his medium-pace on a usually quick Old Trafford deck since the first day isn’t something England had been hoping for.
The urn is returning down under but does even a win at the Oval guarantee Root’s continuation as the captain? It’s hard being Joe Root at this point.
The technical flaws of their batsmen, combined by poor selection and focus of more on white-ball cricket have left England to trigger an overhaul. Harsh calls would follow. They need the rectification of the system in the course of activating changes.
Amid all this, Root still remains their most reliable batsman, if not the most obvious choice to continue as the skipper.