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Ashes 2021/22

‘It is time for someone else to have a go’ – Michael Atherton calls for Joe Root to step aside as captain

by Wisden Staff 2 minute read

Michael Atherton has called for England to replace Joe Root as Test captain.

Root’s position as England’s Test skipper has been questioned after another Ashes series defeat in Australia. The Yorkshire batter was in charge when England fell to a 4-0 loss in the 2017/18 Ashes and finds his side currently 3-0 down with two matches still left to play.

Writing in the The Times, Atherton, who captained England in 54 Tests from 1993 to 2001, criticised Root’s performance as captain during the ongoing Ashes series, arguing that “this could have been a much closer series had Root got things right on the field”.

“Joe Root has [ECB chief executive Tom] Harrison’s backing and the ECB will try to persuade Root to carry on after Sydney,” Atherton said. “They shouldn’t. Root has been a good England captain, and has always carried himself superbly and is an incredible ambassador for the sport, but having done the job for five years and having had three cracks at the Ashes, including two awful campaigns in Australia, it is time for someone else to have a go.

“There have been so many errors here, from selection to strategy, that the captain has to bear personal responsibility. For all the discussion around systemic change, this could have been a much closer series had Root got things right on the field. These errors have made a good Australian side look much better than they are.”

Atherton suggested Ben Stokes as a potential replacement. The all-rounder is England’s Test vice-captain and filled in as a replacement for Root in a Test the full-time skipper missed against the West Indies in 2020. Stokes also captained England’s ODI side to a 3-0 series win over Pakistan earlier this year.

“The options are limited, of course,” Atherton said in regards to potential replacements for Root. “But the lack of alternatives is the worst reason for keeping someone in a job. Ben Stokes is a viable alternative, having done an excellent job as a stand-in briefly in the summer. His bowling is starting to wind down, and, as he may not get into England’s best T20 side now, he can be given a breather during those matches.”

Root currently shares the record for most matches as England Test captain with Alastair Cook, having led his side on 59 occasions.

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