Joe Root wants to continue leading England, and the lack of a suitable replacement means it’s likely he will, but his countrymen are far from convinced after his team’s “ghastly” and pathetic” collapse in Hobart.
Root’s misadventure Down Under in the 4-0 series loss was neatly summed up by his second innings dismissal. The ball barely got off the ground and he was bowled by just about the only delivery that stayed unnaturally low in the match. He is, according to former England skipper Michael Atherton, “an outstanding man, brilliant batsman and a captain who has run his race.”
“I am slightly emotional and that’s not a decision that is just on my shoulders. But I would love the opportunity to turn things around,” Root said afterwards.
“If that decision is taken out of my hands, then so be it but I would love to carry on. With the performances that have been unfolding it’s more a question of ‘does the team need a slightly different direction and a new voice?’, but I honestly think I’m the right person to take this team forward and I really hope I get that opportunity.
“I feel like I’ve got the support of the players and others around me, so we’ll see what unfolds in the coming weeks. I wouldn’t say my voice isn’t being heard.
“Guys will look in the mirror and think they could give a better account of themselves. We’ve let ourselves down. Naturally, off the back of a disappointing series like this, there’s going to be questions asked and generally there is a fall guy. We will see what happens.”
Root is expected to lead England out in the West Indies in March, but coach Chris Silverwood might not last that long.
Former England captains Mark Butcher, Alastair Cook and David Gower were all scathing of England’s final day surrender in Hobart, and indeed the calamitous tour in its entirety.
"They do not seem to be able to withstand any amount of pressure. That was ghastly. It was pathetic." – @markbutcher72
— Cricket on BT Sport (@btsportcricket) January 16, 2022
Butcher described Silverwood’s role as coach and sole selector as “absolutely ludicrous”.
“I think Joe Root will probably stay on as captain – more because there isn’t anybody obvious to take over from him,” Butcher said on BT Sport.
“So you then look above that, and who’s decision was it to make Chris Silverwood not only the head coach but also give him the responsibility of being selector?
“I said it at the time – it was an absolutely ludicrous decision to have a guy in the dressing room, who not only is responsible for results and preparing the team for games, but he’s also the guy who can hire and fire you.
“Can you go up to the coach of the team and have a chat with him about struggling with your form knowing that he’s responsible for your selection?
“You can’t have that guy do two jobs and be in the dressing room at the same time.”
Gower said England’s strategy to prioritise Eoin Morgan’s white-ball team in terms of selection and scheduling of the domestic calendar, led them to this low point.
“It has been horribly obvious for people watching from a distance that Eoin Morgan has everything he wants with the white-ball team,” said Gower.
Yes, we won the World Cup and everyone loved that moment at Lord’s two years ago.
“But poor Joe Root, and I have genuine sympathy for him, finds him with people who aren’t available because they’re in the IPL. What good is that for English Test cricket?
“This is the oldest, most important form of the game. We need to defend it, we need an England team playing it well and is not languishing at the foot, barely even the foot, of the World Test Championship.
“You need a big kick-up somewhere. You look at personnel for sure and there will be people fearing for their position in the side, but you also have to consider who else there is to take over?”
Cook led calls for an overhaul of the leadership structure around the team, ahead of director of cricket Ashley Giles’ report into the failure.
“I would be surprised if England go to the West Indies (in March) with the same structure in place,” Cook said. “I’m not saying Joe Root won’t be captain I just can’t see how you can’t make changes.
“We’ve had the same coaches and leadership in that group of players in the last 18 months and I haven’t seen any improvement.
“What has been going on behind the scenes? You have to ask questions of Graham Thorpe the batting coach, or what has been going on? What has been happening? That is what I want to know. I can’t see an improvement in any of the players.
“If you have the same leadership group and they lose in the West Indies then their position is untenable so there will be changes and there has to be.
“That (collapse) was tough viewing and it has to be our rock bottom.
“There cannot be a worse place to get bowled out in an hour-and-a-half.
“You get bowled out in a session once or twice in your career. You see a batting line-up devoid of all confidence and belief. ”
Another former England skipper, Michael Atherton, writing in The Times, said change was crucial.
“Any notion that there should be no overhaul to the make-up and management of the England cricket team — as you are, Ashley Giles, Chris Silverwood and Joe Root according to some — has been demolished by the nature of this latest defeat in the Ashes,” wrote Atherton.
“Another utterly abject, humiliating collapse, devoid of any technical competence or fighting spirit, saw the series surrendered by a frightening margin in Hobart.
“This hammering, on the back of a desperate year for the Test team, should signal the need for some change. Forget structural change in English domestic cricket for a moment. There is time for that. But a cohort of English first-class cricketers cannot be held accountable for the mistakes made on this tour, for mistakes in selection and strategy, and the way there has been such a meek surrender.
“Root is an outstanding man, brilliant batsman and a captain who has run his race. Beforehand, he said this tour would define his captaincy and here we are. There is no way, surely, that Silverwood can continue as coach and head selector after this, and no way that Giles should continue, either, given the decisions he has made. The manner of defeat suggested a lack of respect for those in charge. It was embarrassing.”
“It is hard to describe the horror of this latest batting collapse. England have not mastered the art of batting, not by a long way, but they have mastered the art of the collapse. They make it look so easy. After this latest episode, they might apply for the trademark: “Ashes 2022”, should do it, a memento for a series where they failed to reach 300 once.”
Geoff Boycott, writing in The Telegraph, opted to open with a dad joke before weighing in on the chaos.
“I keep saying if England cannot bat they will not win. The MCC recently said, in this politically correct world, that the word batsman should be replaced with batter. Well our batters could not batter fish in a fish and chip shop,” Boycott said.
“England’s batsmanship has been exposed as embarrassing. This whole series has been about the poor standard of batting technique, lack of footwork, judgement around off stump about what to play and what to leave. They have lacked patience and sheer bloody-minded determination to make the opposition bowlers bowl you out with good balls.
“Only two players have enhanced their reputations on this Ashes tour. One is a fast bowler Mark Wood and a young kid Zak Crawley playing the last two Test matches.
“Mark’s pace has unsettled so many of the Aussie batsmen hitting them on the gloves, arms and body. He got them out of their comfort zone resorting to having a dart at hooking him and getting out. He was a breath of fresh air and if he can stay fit he will have lots more success.
“Zak’s batting at the end was a delightful surprise. Being tall with a big stride that helps him get to the pitch of the ball he was a scoreboard mover putting a bit of pressure back on the bowler. Against him bowlers run up thinking if I do not get my length or line right he will punish me. He has a simple orthodox technique with lovely timing. Please Zak – do not be a flash in the pan as we need a lot more from you.”
Boycott then tore into the team’s flops.
“Jos Buttler dropped catches and his batting was dreadful…
“Haseeb Hameed, I am sad to say, has not got it. No matter how decent Haseeb looks in the nets or in county cricket he has struggled and will struggle at international level playing like he does in a straight line.
“Rory Burns is ugly to watch. If that is the best of what English cricket has to offer then God help England, his technique you would not give to a friend. The guy has tremendous determination and guts. I take my hat off to him and full credit for everything he gets out of his batting but England need to find something better.”
Scyld Berry, in The Telegraph, said Root got this series wrong from the start.
“Root can at least reflect that his own performances were no better nor worse than most England captains Down Under: they have just about managed to keep their own game together whether their teams were winning or losing,” Berry wrote.
“But no captain has surely made such a huge, calamitous and far-reaching mistake as Root who, by deciding to bat first in Brisbane, instead of attacking Australia at their weakest point, set off on the wrong foot, and stayed there, as the tour rapidly unravelled.
“Stuart Broad’s hold over David Warner was Australia’s one major vulnerability. Instead, Root at the outset chose to expose England’s main vulnerability, their top order, by picking a balanced attack then batting first. England were embarked on a downward spiral once they had been dismissed for 147, and Chris Woakes and Ollie Robinson – a pair who had never shared a new ball – opened the bowling.”
John Etheridge, writing in The Sun, was typically blunt.
“Joe Root was in despair a catastrophic collapse sent England tumbling to another massacre in the Ashes finale,” he wrote.
“Incredibly, England lost all ten wickets for just 56 runs in 22 overs. That’s almost unbelievable – and yet it was all somehow predictable.
“Root must surely resign now. He looks haunted by this experience and has lost weight.
“He should concentrate on scoring 1,000-plus runs for the next five years and hand over the job of dealing with the worst England batting team in living memory to someone else.
“Of course, we knew it was going to happen – it always does – but this subsidence came following a promising start with openers Rory Burns and Zak Crawley reaching 68-0.
The Telegraph’s Nick Hoult said at least two head should roll.
“The brutal truth is they were one wicket away from a whitewash thanks to collapses in the series of 8 for 86 (Adelaide), 8 for 74 (Brisbane), 10 for 61 (MCG) and 10 for 56 here,” Hoult wrote.
“Heads will no doubt roll with Chris Silverwood, the coach, and team director, Ashley Giles, the two likely victims of another Ashes mauling in Australia.
“Silverwood was out of his depth and floundered over strategy and selection. Giles gave him the power and created the system that has not worked. Both knew they would be judged on this series and were in Hobart to see its horrible end.
“Root said this tour would define his captaincy. He wants to carry on, and will give the ECB a blueprint for change but it was worrying he pushed the blame on the county system and backed everyone in the group to carry on.
“It is not all the fault of county cricket. He was culpable for most of the decisions made here too and clings on because there is nobody else to do the job. It is a sorry state of affairs.”