Men's Ashes 2021-22
Root says captaincy queries must wait until after Ashes
Joe Root says he will consider his role as England captain - but not until after the Ashes series has been completed
3 January 2022, 07:06 PM AEST
Joe Root concedes the speculation surrounding his future as England Test captain needs to be addressed, but not until the current Vodafone Ashes campaign is complete by which time he hopes to have overseen a marked improvement in his team's performances.
Root leads England into the fourth Test starting at the SCG on Wednesday having already surrendered the Ashes urn and earned another piece of unwanted history.
From the time Root embarked on his first Ashes quest in late 2013, England have won none of their 13 Tests played in Australia which constitutes their longest stretch of consecutive matches without a win here since Test cricket was born in 1877.
England's previous-longest lean trot in Australia covered 12 consecutive winless Tests from 1937 to 1951.
Furthermore, if Root's men fail to secure victory in the remaining two Tests at Sydney and Hobart that sequence will stretch to 15 and only New Zealand (18 Tests between 1987 and 2011) have endured a more fruitless run against their Australian hosts.
But with questions swirling around his tenure as skipper and the immediate future of coach Chris Silverwood – who remains in Melbourne having tested positive to COVID-19 in the wake of last week's third Test defeat – Root remains squarely focused on the sizeable task ahead.
And he acknowledges life hasn't become any easier in the lead-up to the fourth Test, with other key members of England's coaching staff also absent for COVID reasons and the squad forced to train without access to net bowlers on Sunday after two of that cohort returned positive tests.
Vice-captain Ben Stokes, seen as the likely leadership replacement should Root stand down, told reporters on Sunday he held no immediate designs on the job and was fully supportive of Root continuing.
However, with the Ashes lost an hour or more before the mid-point of the series was reached in Melbourne last week, Root acknowledges his team has been outgunned and speculation about his position is growing.
"I'll look at my future beyond this tour at the end of it," Root said today when asked if he still held the desire to captain England in Tests.
"I think they are questions for me to answer (but) I don't think that's a distraction that should be around the group, or I should be wasting energy on right now.
"I need to make sure I throw everything I can into these two games.
"I think I owe that to this team and to the players, and that will give us the best chance of getting the results we desire.
"All I can control right now is the next two games."
While England's on-field showings have been obviously inferior, with hefty defeats at Brisbane, Adelaide and Melbourne, they can also rightly claim to have enjoyed little luck from the moment they arrived in Australia last November to complete two weeks of COVID quarantine.
Their subsequent training program in Brisbane was heavily compromised by unrelenting rain, and the latest setback to their coaching staff meant Root was among the senior players who took on the role of mentor in the SCG nets where he delivered 'throw downs' to teammates on Sunday.
And despite the absence of Silverwood, whose dual role as head coach and sole selector makes him the single-most influential member of England's touring party, Root believes the latest bout of adversity might just help his charges develop a bit of steel.
"With the amount of coaches we have had missing, it has made things slightly disjointed and challenging but it is an opportunity for us as a group to come together and work together," Root said of the training set-up also missing bowling coaches Jon Lewis and Jeetan Patel as well as strength and conditioning specialist Darren Veness.
"Human beings work together and help each other, and we tried to prepare as well as we can do and stand up in a bit of adversity and we must use that in a positive way when we get out on the field.
"It should absolutely bring us together.
"Sometimes when you look around the dressing room and you know that someone's put that hard work in and helped you out, it can galvanise a team.
"I think that's is what we need right now, to really get tight and stick together.
"It would be easy to get fractious and point fingers at who could be better here or there, but ultimately we are in this together.
"We're where we are because, as a team collectively, we have not performed as well as we can and we've got two opportunities to put that right."
Root might take some solace from the slight difference in circumstances heading into this new year's Test from the two he previously experienced, given the schedule dictates this is the penultimate match of the Vodafone series.
In 2013-14, a broken England limped into Sydney and capitulated inside three days to hand Australia a 5-0 whitewash, while in 2017-18 it was Root himself who fell victim when he was forced to retire ill on the fifth morning as his team crashed to an innings defeat and a 4-0 series scoreline.
But the 31-year-old believes history won't repeat despite the current script sounding hauntingly familiar, with a vow that the shortcomings so cruelly and repeatedly exposed on previous Australia sojourns can be mended.
"Trying not to make the same mistakes, more than anything," Root said today when asked how England might avoid another re-run of 2013-14 and 2017-18.
"We've found ourselves in a situation here where we have clearly under-delivered with the amount of runs we scored, and have to build those partnerships and get something for bowlers to work with.
"On the previous two tours it's been very similar - we've not managed to give those guys (bowlers) the respite they need to be able to back up their performances.
"And similarly with ball in hand, we've just got to be able to build pressure for longer periods of time.
"It has been very challenging, and obviously we’ve had a lot to deal with not just on the field but off it as well.
"We have two games here to show how much we care about that (playing for England) and to make sure we put in better performances than we have done so far on this tour.
"We are better than the performances we have put in and we have two chances to try and get something from the rest of the tour."
Vodafone Men's Ashes
Australia: Pat Cummins (c), Steve Smith (vc), Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Marcus Harris, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitch Marsh, Nic Maddinson, Michael Neser, Jhye Richardson, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, David Warner
England: Joe Root (c), James Anderson, Jonathan Bairstow, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Haseeb Hameed, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood
First Test: Australia won by nine wickets
Second Test: Australia won by 275 runs
Third Test: Australia won by an innings and 14 runs
Fourth Test: January 5-9, SCG
Fifth Test: January 14-18, Blundstone Arena