Root ruing rookie errors, but time allows lessons to be learned

Joe Root was guilty of captaincy inexperience getting the better of him against West Indies, but the England skipper has time on his side.

Published : Aug 30, 2017 19:59 IST

A sixth match as England captain. A defeat to West Indies that few saw coming. Described by The Telegraph as "an utter disgrace".

No, not England's Headingley reverse against the Windies, but the infamous innings-and-23-runs capitulation in Kingston in 2009.

That punishing defeat came with Andrew Strauss as experienced in leadership as Joe Root was this week and the current skipper's boss will do well to offer a reminder that one defeat does not a captaincy make.

Strauss went on to score three hundreds in that series, then beat the Windies at home before regaining the Ashes and then defending it Down Under within two years.

Unfortunately for the incumbent, Root does not quite have such a time frame to learn from the mistakes of this Test.

Shai Hope's unique first-class feat of scoring hundreds in both innings at Root's home ground was West Indies' key to victory, but Root seemed powerless to prevent the 23-year-old scoring over 40 per cent of his career Test runs in this one game.

The balance of England's side looked near perfect against South Africa, and in the series-opening thrashing of Jason Holder's men, but Root was guilty of making his side look a man short on day five, making an attacking second-innings declaration that was to be applauded go to waste.

For the most part, either James Anderson and Stuart Broad bowled in tandem, or Chris Woakes and Moeen Ali did. Ben Stokes, so often able to pluck a tide-turning moment from nowhere, was afforded a solitary five-over spell.

Root admitted afterwards that Anderson and Broad's weight of wickets played on his thoughts when choosing his bowlers, but it meant that the leader of England's attack, at 35 years old, toiled away for 11 overs around tea, before being brought back to take the new ball just five overs later.

West Indies' scoring had slowed as the old ball proved trickier to get away but, with Anderson looking unsurprisingly exhausted, Jermaine Blackwood smashed him for a straight six to kick-start a racy march to victory.

Blackwood had previously looked like a walking wicket, which could have exposed West Indies' lower order with a decent sum of runs still to be scored, however Root's rush to take the new ball ultimately allowed them a modicum of comfort.

Despite the more immediate doom and gloom, the positives for England in this situation are two-fold.

First, Root impressively held his hands up after play on Tuesday and admitted he may have erred with the use of his bowlers.

"Here [Stokes] only got five overs - that's something looking back personally that could have gone slightly different," he said

"When I thought of bringing him on, there was also opportunities to bring on Stuart and Jimmy where you're looking at guys who've taken nearly 900 Test wickets, your senior bowlers stand up and make the breakthroughs for you. That might be something for me to learn as well."

The second bonus for Root is the unwavering backing of head coach Trevor Bayliss.

Such a surprising defeat can often prompt introspection and rash decision-making, but Bayliss was quick to highlight the importance of Root sticking to his guns in the Lord's series decider and beyond into the tour of Australia later this year.

Bayliss said: "I hope the result doesn't change the way he thinks about the game. If we're in that situation I think more times than not, we'll win more than we lose.

"The wicket played pretty well, the West Indies played even better. So all credit to them but I'd like to see the same sort of thought process happening in the future." 

Root has shown an aptitude for learning and improvement in spades since being caught off guard by the venom of an Ashes tour four years ago which ended with him being sent home early.

He will need to dig deep yet again if he is to follow the Strauss model and lead England to Ashes glory off the back of a rueful defeat to the Windies.

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