With speculation about his future as England captain at fever pitch after England slumped to defeat against West Indies in Grenada to confirm another lost series, Joe Root has recommitted himself to the role, insisting the team are rapidly improving and that he remains the best person to lead them into the next phase of their development.
England have now won just one of their past 17 Tests, and for the first time in their 145-year history they have not won any of five successive series.
Five years after his appointment as captain Root’s leadership has been savagely criticised, particularly since the third-day collapse that left England on 103 for eight overnight in their second innings and leading by just 10 runs. They extended that to 27 before Jack Leach became the last wicket to fall, and West Indies romped to their victory target in less than five overs and without losing a wicket.
“I think I’ve spoken quite enough on the subject,” Root said about the captaincy. “I am very passionate about taking this team forward. I made that clear ahead of the game and that is not going to waver.
“I know this is a results-based business but it does not feel like we are far away from getting results. I’ll throw everything at it, do anything I can to help England win. That’s not going to change. I’m very passionate about being the man to take this team forward.”
The first two Tests of the series were drawn, and in the decider England’s top seven batters scored a total of 127 runs across their two innings, of which the opener Alex Lees was responsible for 49%. Root himself scored only five. “For the majority of this series we played so much good cricket and made big strides forward as a team,” he said.
“We showed improvements in a number of different areas but two and a half sessions of bad cricket have really let us down. It has cost us the series and that is such a frustration for myself and the whole group, because we have done so much good throughout this trip. It would be easy to look at [Saturday] in isolation and let that overshadow some brilliant cricket.”
With Root himself scoring two centuries in the series, Jonny Bairstow, Zak Crawley and Ben Stokes also reaching triple figures, and Jack Leach taking 11 wickets – enough to tie with West Indies’ Jayden Seales and Kemar Roach as the most dangerous bowlers in the series – while producing some obstinate batting displays of his own, it has not been a trip entirely without positives. “We are making strides forward as a team,” Root said.
“It was just two bad sessions and that is the area we have to keep looking at: making better decisions more frequently under pressure as a batting group. We showed in the first Test we can do that. We have just got to do it more frequently and that is where frustration lies, because everyone has proved they can do what it takes to win Test matches. It is so frustrating because we feel so close.”
Kraigg Brathwaite, the leading run-scorer in his first home series as West Indies captain and scorer of the winning runs, praised England’s performance in those first two Tests. “In two hard-fought draws I thought England played very well and we had to show some fight in the last days of both of those games,” he said. “But coming here, we ramped it up. It’s been a remarkable effort.”
Paul Collingwood, who was promoted to interim head coach in February when Chris Silverwood was sacked at the end of the Ashes series, declared his desire to stay in the role. A full-time appointment is expected before England’s next Test fixture, against New Zealand in June. “I’ve enjoyed the last few weeks,” he said.
“I feel there’s been a really good response from the players. Of course there’ll be disappointment around this game. I want to make a difference and hopefully from inside the dressing room there has been a change and if they decide they want to give me a job I’d certainly take it. I’ve enjoyed it a lot more than I was expecting to.”