Boycott: Time for Root to step down as skipper

Joe Root must step down as England captain after his team's meek surrender in Melbourne ensured Australia retained the Ashes,  England cricketing great Geoffrey Boycott says.

Australia's commanding victory in the third test by an innings and 14 runs gave the hosts an unassailable 3-0 lead in the series.

England were heavily criticised after their second-innings capitulation, with former captain Ian Botham saying he was "embarrassed" to see them lose the Ashes in only 12 days of test cricket.

Joe Root is under pressure after England's capitulation in the third test, handing the Ashes to...
Joe Root is under pressure after England's capitulation in the third test, handing the Ashes to Australia. Photo: Reuters

"Now Australia are 3-0 up and the Ashes have gone, will Root please stop saying Australia are not much better than us?

"I don't mind him living in cuckoo land but stop trying to kid us," Boycott, a batsman, wrote in his column in The Telegraph on Tuesday.

"If he really believes what he says then maybe it is time he gave up the captaincy of the England cricket team. The facts are staring us all in the face, except Joe doesn't want to see it.

"England can't bat. Our bowling is ordinary."

Boycott said many of Root's decisions were wrong, such as batting first on a seamer-friendly pitch at the Gabba in Brisbane while leaving out James Anderson and Stuart Broad who have more than 1100 test wickets between them.

"It's every cricketer's dream to captain England and Joe has had 59 test matches to mould and stamp his authority on this set of players. He has had 13 tests against Australia with only two wins and nine losses.

"Nobody would want to give up the captaincy, but it is not about Joe - it is about getting guys to perform better." 

Call for 'red-ball reset' after abysmal year 

England's humiliating surrender of the Ashes to Australia has exposed not only a gulf in class between the two old rivals but also laid bare, in brutally emphatic fashion, the deep-seated problems in English test cricket.

The faint hope of a turnaround in their fortunes in this series ended with them being scuttled out for 68 in their second innings and 14-run loss in Melbourne.

Australia have an insurmountable 3-0 lead after winning the opening test in Brisbane by nine wickets and the second match in Adelaide by 275 runs.

It has been an abysmal 12 months in red-ball cricket for England, who lost four series in a year for the first time - the crushing in Australia following home losses to New Zealand and India, and a defeat at the start of the year in India.

Never before have England lost nine test matches in a calendar year.

For all the micro-debates that will rage about coach Chris Silverwood, selection decisions, tactical approaches, Root's captaincy and the limitations of specific players, the big picture is the one that will surely be on the agenda for the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB).

Former England captain Michael Vaughan has no doubt that test match cricket has slipped down the priorities in English cricket.

“They’ve not been focused enough on the test match team. The focus has been on the white-ball team and it delivered a World Cup. But we’re not a good enough cricketing nation to take our eye off the ball of test match cricket. We can’t just arrive and play," he told Australia's Fox Cricket.

Another former captain, Michael Atherton, believes that the structure of English cricket is to blame for the shocking results.

"Beyond questions of individual responsibility which cannot be avoided, it may be that this latest hammering brings pressure to bear upon systemic change," Atherton wrote in The Times.

"The hollowing out of English first-class cricket, pushed to the margins of the season and sacrificed at the altar of one-day cricket, has resulted in a domestic standard that is routinely revealed to be sub-standard when players come to this part of the world. Over five tests, an Ashes series is partly a referendum on respective systems, and the result of this year’s is clear," he added.

Root finds himself in an unenviable position with two tests remaining to be played and the team's confidence already at rock bottom.

But the Yorkshireman also hinted at where the post-tour inquest is likely to focus.

“That [the domestic structure] is a long conversation that should probably be had at another time," he said, before insisting the best players available had been selected for the tour.

Root acknowledged though that county cricket is not providing enough of a challenging testing ground for players expected to move into the pressure of the Ashes arena.

“With where the game is in our country right now, the only place you can really learn is in the hardest environment for what is a young batting group.

"They are having to learn here in the harshest environments. Maybe you look back at 2015 and the reset that happened in white-ball cricket and maybe that’s something that needs to be happening in our red-ball game.”

With so many commercial interests tied up in the one-day game, T20 and the new Hundred competition, finding the space and resources for such a reset will be easier said than done.

"There's a lot of glitz and glamour and money being thrown around in the white-ball game, but the test game is the most important format for cricketers, so I think it should be given that attention," said former England batsman Jonathan Trott.

"Younger players need to be coached how to bat time and build an innings, not just how many you can score off 10 balls."

 

 

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