England in West Indies – Ex-captains call for Joe Root to step down after defeat


Atherton, Hussain and Vaughan lead calls for change of leadership

England’s defeat on the Spice Isle was Root’s 26th in 64 Tests as captain since his appointment five years ago, meaning that only two men in Test history – Stephen Fleming (27) and Graeme Smith (29) – have overseen more defeats.
While Root said he had “spoken quite enough on the subject” in his post-match press conference and insisted his side had made “big improvements” and played some “brilliant cricket” over the course of the series, several of his predecessors suggested that the decision should no longer be his to make.

“Root’s captaincy is untenable, and he must surely know it deep down,” Atherton, who has consistently called for Root to step down since England’s defeat in the 2021-22 Ashes, wrote in his Times column. “His team have now gone five series without victory and have only won one Test in the past 17, a shocking run for a team so well resourced.

“As was obvious to anyone who was present in Australia, and should have been obvious to anyone who wasn’t, Root has reached the end of the road as captain. A change will not cure all ills – this is a poor team and England are paying the price for the neglect of the first-class game – but there simply comes a time when a captain has nothing new to say, no new methods of motivating his players and a different voice or different style is required.

“He had reached that point at the end of the Ashes and nothing has changed. It would have been a cleaner break to have finished then but that decision will now be for the new managing director, the date for applications for which closed on Sunday evening. How Root could feel he had the right to go on after Australia or how he could remain in situ while so many others with whom he shared responsibility were sacked, was a mystery, and remains so.”

Hussain, writing in the Daily Mail, said that the decision to leave James Anderson and Stuart Broad out of the squad had been “a cop out” and that Root – along with the interim selection panel of Andrew Strauss, Paul Collingwood and James Taylor – had selected a team of “yes men”.

“Root is a world-class batsman and a very likeable lad but I feel he has never had that instinctive feel for the game as captain,” Hussain wrote. “Clearly, under Joe and Paul Collingwood in the West Indies, England tried to create this atmosphere where they were all mates and all in it together. They want to be a likeable team but you need more than that to win Tests.

“Sometimes you need those tough characters even if they are difficult to captain and coach. It’s such a cop out to leave out people who are perhaps difficult to manage and pick a team of 10 yes men and yourself. The whole point of captaincy, and the aspect of the role I enjoyed the most, was trying to get the most out of people who did things differently.”

England’s incoming managing director of men’s cricket will appoint a head coach and decide what to do with the captaincy before the start of their home summer against New Zealand on June 2, and Hussain suggested Ben Stokes should be offered the role.

“If Joe does not decide to step down himself the decision should be taken out of his hands,” he wrote. “Then the new coach should sit down with Ben Stokes and ask him where he is off the field mentally and where he is with his game. Ben seems to be playing with passion and fire again and if the coach likes what he hears from him then Stokes should get the job.”

Vaughan, writing for the Daily Telegraph, said that Root’s captaincy “has not been good enough” and that “tactically, he consistently misses a trick”.

“It happened in Grenada, it happened endlessly in Australia and many times last summer,” he wrote. “It has been a consistent trend that when England have been put under pressure on Joe’s watch they have not been able to cope. When they have to win an hour they lose it.

“I knew in 2008 at the start of that summer that I would stand down. As England captain you just know when your race is run. Joe has to ask himself does he have the energy to drive himself for the next year and a half? Are the team listening? The evidence suggests not.

“Ultimately we have to ask how much worse will England be if Joe Root is no longer the captain? What are we going to miss? We are not going to miss his runs because he will keep scoring those. Are we going to miss his tactics in the middle? No.

“If he has the energy and a new coach can help him more than previous coaches then maybe he could bounce back but I’m not convinced.”