Less than 10 days into the 2021/22 Ashes and the wheels are already coming off for England.
Staring down the barrel of a 2-0 deficit with three Tests to play, the first two Tests have, so far, seen the retelling of a familiar tale for England in 2021.
Barring a final day miracle at Adelaide, England will register their eighth defeat in 14 Tests in 2021 – they have never lost more in a single calendar year.
And while the batting has been the focus of the majority of the recent criticism, increasingly, the suitability of the leadership pair – Joe Root and Chris Silverwood – for their respective jobs has come under scrutiny.
Former Australia captain Ian Chappell became the latest great to criticise Root’s captaincy, skewering his leadership skills on the eve of the fourth day at Adelaide, writing for ESPNcricinfo.
Chappell wrote: “What is the opposite definition of excellent leadership? There’s a good chance it can be summed up by Joe Root’s captaincy. Root is an excellent batter but a poor captain.”
Chappell was critical of England’s selections under Root, including the continuous backing of Jos Buttler who has, so far, endured a difficult Test at Adelaide, falling for a duck in England’s first innings and dropping a succession of chances behind the stumps.
He continued: “It showed again at Adelaide Oval that misfortune follows Root’s team around. The England bowlers beat the bat regularly but had little to show for their honest toil. However, the England selectors’ tolerance of mediocrity was also on view when Jos Buttler, who is far from their best keeper, was again chosen and made yet more inexcusable blunders.”
“No amount of blustering bluff at press conferences can cover up for the selection mistakes that have been made by England. It’s not that Root’s team dislike him – on the contrary – it’s just that he has taken so many poor decisions, they must be thinking, “Oh no, not again.”
“He is not an inspirational captain and this is indicated by the number of times his team work their way into a decent position but can’t finish the job.”
Chappell also noted Root’s tendency to the follow the ball as captain. “Another sign of Root’s inadequacy was the number of times he put an English fielder in a catching position following an uppish shot going to that area,” he added. “A good captain – as Richie Benaud regularly said – is two overs ahead of the game, otherwise he’s behind in the match. A responsible leader has a team of competitors who want to play for their skipper.”
“Root had to find a way to be ahead in the Adelaide Test if England were to surge back into the series. Unfortunately, they again let the opportunity slip with some questionable bowling and even more negative tactics. The dreaded conclusion; “Oh no not again,” is likely to be a regular comment while Root remains in charge.”