Joe Root called time on his five-year tenure as Test captain on Friday as English cricket undergoes a leadership reshuffle that is expected to see Rob Key take over as managing director of the men’s team.
Key, the former Kent captain who has worked as a commentator for Sky since his retirement from playing in 2015, is understood to be in advanced negotiations for the role made vacant by the sacking of Ashley Giles in February, with an announcement tipped to follow the Easter bank holiday.
And one of the first jobs in his in-tray will be to decide on a new Test captain for the three-match series against New Zealand in June – with Ben Stokes the favorite – after Root took time out to consider last month’s 1-0 defeat to West Indies plus a run of just one victory in his last 17 outings as captain.
Root said: “After returning from the Caribbean tour and having time to reflect, I have decided to step down as England men’s Test captain. It has been the most challenging decision I have had to make in my career but having discussed this with my family and those closest to me; I know the timing is right.
“I am immensely proud to have captained my country and will look back on the past five years with enormous pride. It has been an honor to have done the job and to have been a custodian of what is the pinnacle of English cricket. I have loved leading my country, but recently it’s hit home how much of a toll it has taken on me and the impact it has had on me away from the game.”
Root, 31, steps down after 64 Tests in charge, 27 victories and 26 defeats – all three of which are records for an England captain – and will return to the ranks as a batter. Jimmy Anderson, writing on Instagram, expressed his gratitude for him and added: “I ca n’t wait to see him back out in the middle where I’m certain he’ll cement himself as one of the all-time greats.”
Stokes, the current vice-captain, appears the likeliest successor in a thin field and led the side for a home Test in 2020 when Root was on paternity leave. It would be a huge challenge, however, both as an all-format all-rounder and a player who last summer took time out for mental health reasons.
This is something Key – or a surprise late candidate from left field – will have to consider when making his choice. The 42-year-old, who won 15 Test caps between 2002 and 2005, would also have to appoint a new head coach after Chris Silverwood, like Giles, paid the price for England’s 4-0 Ashes defeat in Australia.
It may well be that given a bulging fixture schedule, and a 2022-23 winter that sees Test and white-ball tours overlap, separate head coaches for the two men’s teams are required. Key, in his role as a pundit, has previously advocated such a split but for performance reasons, chiefly.
Speaking on Sky’s Cricket podcast in February, Key said: “I would split the coaching. Not because it’s a lot of work but because it’s two very different teams at two different times. the [white-ball] team could do with a facilitator coach who can just keep delivering what they’re doing but challenge them. The Test team needs a completely different style of coach – a driver of culture and environment. The biggest thing is the mentality, which I think has been very poor.”
Key’s appointment would also see England likely to move on from Anderson and Stuart Broad, having supported the decision made by Strauss, the interim managing director, to leave the pair at home during the recent Caribbean tour. He is in favor of giving them a farewell in front of their home supporters this summer but believes their ongoing presence in the team would block others.
“Do they get in the team on merit? Absolutely,” Key said. “Do I think they’ll be the ones to take us into this new era and get us to No 1 in the world? No I don’t. They can’t help if they’re monopolizing the new ball. [But] they certainly deserve a proper send-off.”
Strauss is overseeing the recruitment process for the managing director of men’s cricket but had scant few candidates to assess, with Marcus North, Ed Smith and Mike Hesson, the former New Zealand head coach, among those to turn down the opportunity to further their initial conversations. over-the-role.
Key, though lacking in direct experience, had an all-compassing role during his nine seasons as Kent captain, often dealing with contract negotiations, and has also sat on the England and Wales Cricket Board’s cricket committee.
The former batter is an original thinker on the game and, though popular among the current generation of England cricketers, has stated he would crack down on the player power that previously led to some missing Test matches to feature in the Indian Premier League and saw last winter’s tour of Pakistan cancelled.