The England selectors appear to be heading towards a crucial decision in terms of who will be captain of their ODI team in 2015 and beyond. Alastair Cook is struggling for form, as are the team, and whether the England hierarchy are to keep faith with Cook for the World Cup, or not, it appears that a change at the helm will almost certainly be made over the next three to four months, if not sooner.
Cook is a quality batsmen with a hugely impressive Test match record but his ODI form is having a detrimental affect on himself and the team so the right decision would be for him to step aside as England look to breed new life into their ailing team.
The highly impressive Yorkshireman Joe Root has been tipped as a possible successor to Cook in the shorter format of the game and quite possibly in the Test match arena in the longer term. Can he step into the role and give all of England a lift in ODI cricket?
Root has performed very well during the recent 5-2 series defeat to Sri Lanka, as well as during 2014 in general, and has been one of the very few shining lights for England. He has led England’s middle-order, mainly during times of crisis, and has stood out for his maturity, talent and temperament.
He ended the series as England’s leading run-scorer with 367 runs from his seven innings, at an average in excess of 73. He was by far and away England’s most productive batsmen, hitting a century and two half-centuries. Only Moeen Ali could muster more than 200 runs.
He is a very respected young man around the World of cricket and will no doubt command respect within the dressing room simply because of his performances on the pitch. He is able to lead by example. However, there are strong characters, as we know, within the England camp and once Root’s form on the pitch shows signs of falling from his high standards it could create a problem.
One serious question that we need to consider in all of this is whether we are really prepared to burden our one shining light with the trials and tribulations of the ODI captaincy? Could such pressures affect his form?
Root has not had much exposure to captaincy at county level, never mind International cricket. His one captaincy game for Yorkshire last season was in the County Championship in which Yorkshire surprisingly lost when in a commanding position in their match against Middlesex. It was Yorkshire's only loss during their successful campaign.
It would be a steep learning curve for Root.
Ideally you would like an England captain to be able to practice his captaincy with his county before taking over the national side but in this day and age that does not happen and there is an element of learning on the job, which is never easy. Many England captains in the past have been chosen before they have gained much experience in the art of captaincy.
The alternatives to Root are not too inspiring either. The current vice-captain Eoin Morgan is woefully out of form, scoring just 90 runs in seven knocks in Sri Lanka, at an average of under 13. However, Morgan seems to thrive on the pressure of captaincy and his batting stats show an improvement when given the added responsibilities. He also seems to be the rightful heir to the throne at present.
Stuart Broad, who is recovering from injury, is another who could take up the mantle but he has been out of action for some time now and would appear to be a player who needs to recapture his form and fitness rather than having to worry about the captaincy as well.
Is it because of the lack of options that Root has suddenly emerged as potential captaincy material? Are there any other real contenders?
There is no doubt that Root has a number of qualities to bring to the England captaincy role, and he is one of the players who is a certainty to stay in probably all formats of the game for England for the foreseeable future, depending on his fitness. However, is it a case of the right job at the wrong time and should we just let the young man continue his development in the International arena where he has the potential to be one of the best players ever produced by England? To fulfil his undoubted potential with the added burden of captaincy could be one step too far for him.