Joe Root was the eightieth man to captain England’s test cricket team, and in the minds of many he’s among the very best to have been bestowed with the honour.
His decision to step down from the captaincy has rather left the Lions in something of a hole, with no natural successor currently in the team and the most likely candidate – Ben Stokes – being so important to this team with bat and ball.
Nobody has captained England in more tests than the 31-year-old, and nobody has won more games while in charge – although, as we’ll see later, that doesn’t necessarily mean that his winning ratio is the best.
Root has spoken of the ‘toll’ that the captaincy has taken on him, and it’s certainly true that the rigours of travelling the world playing the hardest format of the sport – and having every minute decision scrutinised by the media and fans – is a tough assignment to take on.
But one thing that is for sure is that he gave a solid account of himself after taking on the leadership role….
The Root of the Numbers
Some sportspeople find captaincy a heavy burden to carry – they somehow absorb the woes that others are facing in their team to go with their own pressures.
But others step up to the plate and elevate their game, and that’s certainly an accusation that can be levelled at Root. As captain, he scored 5,295 runs – by far and away the best tally from an England skipper while in charge.
Given that he has captained England more times than anybody else, Root has been able to accumulate a happy record and one rather less fortunate – he has won more tests as captain of the Three Lions that anybody else. But he’s also lost more than any other skipper, too.
At the time of Root’s resignation, England had won just one of their previous 17 tests and had been defeated in four series in a row – their worst run since the 1980s.
He has walked away from the job at the best time for all parties, you would wager, but that’s not to undermine the excellent job he did for the first 75% or so of his reign.
Is Joe Root England’s Best Ever Captain?
More games, more wins, more defeats – life was certainly never dull under Root’s captaincy.
In his early days he was blessed with having an excellent set of players at his disposal, but in recent times England’s test team has looked to be a shadow of its former self – for which a variety of reasons have been offered.
One of the more interesting stats that we can use to determine Root’s success as England skipper is win ratio, which perhaps paints a better picture than the win tally alone.
To that end, as we see, Root slips down the pecking order of England captains:
|Captain||No. of Tests||No. of Wins||Win %|
There’s a whole bunch of other situational factors to consider, which range from the quality of the players that the captain has at their disposal to the standard of opposition international cricket – that has ebbed and flowed throughout the decades.
It’s hard to argue with the notion that Mike Brierley is the best skipper to take the reins for England – he wrote the book on captaincy….literally. His ‘Art of Captaincy’ tome is considered a must-read in the field of sports journalism, and the fact that he earns his living as a psychologist these days perhaps reveals how he went about his business in the dressing room.
Michael Vaughan was an outstanding batsman whose class helped England to plenty of wins on his watch, and he was also blessed with a canon of elite level performers – the Ashes series win of 2005 testament to that. Winning more than 50% of the games he captained in? That’s an extraordinary achievement.
Peter May’s near 48% win rate from 41 matches is another fine effort, and there are other English captains that have overseen notable regimes. Douglas Jardine only captained 15 England games, but in that time he masterminded the infamous Bodyline series – ending his short stint with nine wins and a success ratio of 60%.
The likes of Ian Botham and Bob Willis battled manfully with being frontline bowlers and captain – rarely a heady mix, while the captains of the 1980s and 90s (Gower, Gatting, Gooch, Atherton and co) were lumbered with an England team that was, shall we say, below par.
Andrew Strauss built upon the foundations laid by Vaughan before him, but in naming the best England captain of all time we perhaps have to return to the man that changed the face of cricket captaincy – Mike Brierley.