The day has arrived. Sweet, sweet Joseph Root has relinquished the England Test Captaincy after something of a rocky year (1 win in about 100 attempts). This is a day that many have been expecting for some time, but it is also a day that others have been dreading. This is because it raises the impossible question. Who next?
The name on the tip of many tongues is none other than Mr Benjamin Stokes. Batter, bowler, taker of crazy catches and dropper of easy ones. Stokes is England’s other player who when fit will always play, so for many is the natural successor. For a multitude of reasons this would crash and burn.
Most relevant right now is his physical fitness. Stokes cannot seem to catch a break, and is battling injury after injury. One would want their captain to be reliably available, and this is a major question mark in relation to Ben Stokes. The issue that questionable fitness causes is that it immediately creates the question of who is to be vice-captain in the case of Stokes’ likely absences. England can barely find one person to lead the team, let alone a second.
Not to mention that on the field there are legitimate workload concerns that would be created. Stokes already has many things to think about in a Test match given his all-action role, it would not be wise to add on several responsibilities. History has not been kind to England’s set of mercurial all-rounder captains.
It is on this note that the final point arises. Ben Stokes is politely a maverick, and impolitely a tad strange. Time and time again he has spoken of his undying loyalty to Joe Root, and there is a serious question of whether he would actually want the job. Stokes has been a captain for England before in cases of emergency, but that is very different to being the captain for a rebuild. Who knows if he would even say yes if asked?
Outside of Stokes, the internet has produced a set of slightly more rogue names. The ones I see cropping up most commonly are Sam Billings and James Vince. Being very honest I’m not swayed by either of the two. Thinking from the perspective of overly traditional sports teams, the new captain is likely to be someone who is ‘well-respected’ (played lots of Tests) and well-liked (one of the boys). While I cannot possibly comment on the latter, though it would be fascinating to know, the former creates something of a speedbump. Billings has barely played a Test, and Vince has not been seen in one for years.
Whilst it cannot be ruled out, I would be surprised if the England setup goes for someone slightly outside the inner circle of the England Men’s Team. The only caveat to this is some major speculation that if Rob Key becomes a higher up he might just give it to Super Kent Sam Billings. (Or his darling boy Zak Crawley).
Going back to the idea of well-liked and well-respected only a few names remain. The problem is that one is retired, two have just been aired, and the other currently has the Orange Cap on his head in the IPL. One does however remain.
Starting in the middle, none other than James Anderson and Stuart Broad. As well as the rather obvious questions about age and whether they will play every Test, it would be quite embarrassing/funny (delete as appropriate) to make someone you just dropped in bizarre fashion the new captain. It gives strong ‘take me back, I’ll treat you like a princess this time’ vibes from the England management.
Another person in this bracket is Moeen ‘retired from Test cricket’ Ali. After a slightly strange career of batting in every imaginable role, Mo stepped away from the format last year. I’ve seen many people hoping that Mo comes back but for his own sake I hope he does not. As much as I’d love to see him actually choose where he bats, it might only end in tears. His returns in the last few years were not exactly amazing, and I do not fancy seeing him raked over the hot coals as captain.
Jos. Oh Jos. You were the chosen one. Back in 2020 and early 2021 I thought the puzzle had finally been solved. Jos Buttler was finding form in Test cricket and it was then I had a vision. It was to be Jos Buttler who unified the three formats. The first man to score an international century in all three, the exact man to captain all three. It has gone quite badly wrong. After struggling against India and Australia he finds himself on the outside looking in.
This is where I go bold, and predict he will still be captain at some point. I cannot logically guess when, I simply think it will happen. The kit manufacturing money from Castore dictates it.
All that leaves is a certain Yorkshire redhead. Not often discussed as a captaincy candidate given he has only been back in the team for a year, Jonny Bairstow might find the opportunity has fallen right into his lap.
Bairstow right now is a reliable starter, is experienced, and has been in good form. He is part of the current core England group, and seems as if he would relish the opportunity. It is this that makes the best example of how fickle sport can be. At the start of last summer the idea of a Jonny Bairstow comeback would have raised eyebrows and probably some barbed comments. Now, he might just be leading the team out against New Zealand.
I quite honestly have no idea who it will be. My Jos Buttler pipedream has faded away, and all I am left with is immeasurable sadness and confusion.
Thank you Joe xxx