England captain Joe Root’s belief that the team’s chances of winning the Ashes – which begins in November – will be determined by the team’s last three matches against Australia has nothing to do with whether they beat India this summer, he said.
“We’ve played two games this year, against Pakistan [in May] and India in July. We’ve played these two games in England and done really well. India obviously have played well in the last Test match and won, so we know how much cricket we’ve got to play,” Root said on the BBC after his team beat India by 18 runs in the final Test of the series at The Oval.
His selection as captain makes him the first English captain to play for his country in a four-Test series in Australia. The Ashes, in fact, are the ideal series for Root to develop his leadership skills.
In all, it is a developing captaincy and a developing England side. “It’s about learning all the time and that’s something we have to continue to do,” Root said, “and being able to recognize other people’s strengths and know when it’s the right time to call on those talents.”
Root credits his recent selections with an increased ability to understand when players need to be rested. He says that even though he will be rested next week during the one-day series against South Africa, he will be working hard to get himself into shape.
Australia has Australia captain Steve Smith, who has played all five Tests in the last Ashes series in England, and everyone knows how to prepare,” Root said. “That was the difference, so it’s no surprise that the teams have done so well. You go into every Test series expecting it to be really hard.”
Root believes that the change of captaincy from Alastair Cook to him and from Cook to Stuart Broad had positive results, but the England players may not feel the impact of that change that much. And that, Root believes, is where he must build his leadership skills. “There’s a huge understanding,” he said, “and a huge knowledge of the players. That’s the first step: understanding the players you’re working with, the style of play and how they work. That comes with the position, but it won’t be enough. Once you know that, I think your team become more important to you than your position. When you know a lot about the people around you, you feel more comfortable as a captain. So from that point of view, as well as understanding players and making sure you bring them along in the right way, I think I’ve done well in my captaincy.”
“It’s the first time I’ve captained [England] in a four-Test series,” he said. “So it’s been a tough couple of months, there’s no doubt about that. But I’ve been really fortunate to be able to learn a lot from those experiences. I’ve learned things that really go into the dressing room that may be forgotten in between games, especially getting used to the changes and the way things have gone down. I think there will be guys that feel they’ve learned a bit more. We will see that grow in the second half of the series.”