‘It will define my captaincy’: Root under no illusions ahead of Ashes

Joe Root believes his tourists can win the pivotal moments across a five-Test Ashes series and the result will define his soon-to-be record-breaking tenure as England captain.

Root and his Australian counterpart Pat Cummins were on hand for the official series launch on Sunday at the Gabba but it was the Englishman who provided the sense of occasion, saying nothing less than his legacy was on the line over the next six weeks.

The Yorkshireman has captained his country 56 times and will surpass the 59-Test mark of Alastair Cook by the fourth match in Sydney. That’s a fine stint in charge but Root knows captaining a winning series in Australia remains English cricket’s equivalent of Olympic gold, an achievement that trumps any landmark statistic.

Michael Vaughan, the former England captain, has already suggested that Root will be judged historically on what he and his side can achieve in Australia over the summer. Root doesn’t disagree, saying he would be ‘naive’ to think the stakes were any less substantial.

“Absolutely it is (on the line), you look at how hard it has been for English captains and English teams over the years. It’s been something that doesn’t happen very often,” Root said.

“Of course it will define my captaincy, I’m not naive enough to think that it won’t. But what a great opportunity. I can’t wait for the series to get going.”

England captain Joe Root eyes off his Australian counterpart Pat Cummins.Credit:Getty

England arrive as underdogs but Root has seen enough from his squad to suggest they can be the ones who take the opportunities when they arrive. With rain about in Brisbane and a pitch that may be far more suitable to the English seamers than they had ever dared dream, the opening hours at the Gabba may be a case in point.

He said the chance was there for both the senior and junior members of the team to rise to the occasion and write their own chapter in Ashes folklore, much like Ben Stokes did when he saved the day for the home side at Headingley in 2019.

“You look at some of the players, some of the individuals, some of the performances guys have put in… the senior guys have done it time and time again,” Root said.

“The junior guys have shown glimpses of what they can do and their potential. What better stage to really grab a series and make an announcement on the international stage.

The first Test begins at the Gabba on Wednesday.Credit:Getty

“I’m an Ashes player and I want to live in the history of this great rivalry. That carrot is there for everyone.”

First and foremost, Root needs to make runs. He is currently rated the best Test batsman in the world and while he has hardly been ineffective in Australian conditions, he hasn’t plundered attacks either.

In 2013-14, he averaged 27.42 across four Tests with a top score of 87. And as captain of a difficult series in 2017-18, in which England lost 4-0, Root made starts without the finishing flourish. Across five Tests, he poured on 378 at 47.25, with five 50s but no centuries.

After dealing with the Yorkshire racism scandal off the pitch, he now has a pressing cricketing concern in the form of Cummins, a rare fast-bowling captain and a potential nemesis. Their head-to-head ledger could well play a decisive role in the outcome of the series.

Root looked slightly perplexed as he stood next to Cummins while the Australian confirmed the home XI in front of media and television cameras. Root and England will keep their powder dry for a few days yet, at least until they find out if the weather will remain as pleasing as it has been for the start of the Test week.

He hinted they would likely include left-arm finger spinner Jack Leach and resist the temptation to load up their side with quick bowlers, no matter how enticing the wicket appeared to look.

“We’ve got all the options on the table right now, we’re not going to name a team just yet. We’ll have to see a closer forecast and how that pitch changes over the next couple of days,” Root said.

“But I do think it is a good place to bowl spin. If you speak to some of the great spin bowlers from Australia, they’ve always enjoyed bowling here. It’s something we’ll weigh up but we’re not in a position to make a call on that right now.”

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