LONDON (Reuters) - Joe Root came out fighting after Australia retained the Ashes with a thrilling victory in the fourth test at Old Trafford on Sunday but questions remain about his effectiveness as captain.
The 28-year-old cut a rather forlorn figure as Australia celebrated moving 2-1 ahead in the series but insists he is still the right man to lead England forward.
This week’s Oval test offers Root the chance of at least avoiding becoming the first England captain to lose a home series against Australia since Mike Atherton suffered that fate in 2001 - a result that prompted his international retirement.
While Root remains England’s best batsman and is still in his prime, not all are convinced that he is getting the best out of his team mates with his decision-making during the four tests so far against Australia being questioned.
“Joe Root is such a likeable lad, a quality batsman and nobody wants to hurt or humiliate him but I’m afraid he lacks any feel for captaincy,” former opening batsman and respected pundit Geoffery Boycott, who had a short spell as captain in 1977-78, told the Daily Telegraph on Monday.
“His captaincy has been very disappointing and he has to seriously think about whether he is suited for the job and whether it is affecting his batting.”
Root’s record since taking over as captain from Alastair Cook two years ago has seen series wins at home against India and South Africa and away in Sri Lanka.
But England were thrashed by Australia in 2017 and this year lost a series to West Indies for the first time since 2009.
There is also a concern that his batting is being undermined by the responsibility of captaincy.
He has failed to score a century in the ongoing Ashes series, made three ducks and averages only 30.
Boycott, however, is more concerned with Root’s failure to seize on crucial moments during the current series — pointing to Saturday’s afternoon session when Australia were wobbling on 63 for four to leave the door slightly ajar.
Australia went on to declare on 186 for six to leave England fighting in vain for a draw.
“Jofra Archer bowled fast and Stuart Broad with great skill and intensity, the atmosphere was electric with the crowd urging England on to bowl them out cheaply,” Boycott said.
“But after tea Joe opened the bowling with Craig Overton and Jack Leach and his field settings beggared belief.
“All the intensity, aggression dissipated. Joe just stood at slip watching (Steve) Smith take the match away from us.
“As much as we all love Joe it seems he does not have a feel for the nuances of the game.”
Boycott believes the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) will be wary of taking the captaincy away from Root but his criticism is echoed by another former captain Nasser Hussain.
“It’s been clear in this game that Root has felt let down by some of his bowlers, especially on the first day,” Hussain told the Daily Mail. “But he knows the buck stops with him. It’s up to the captain to get the best out of his team.”
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Christian Radnedge