Can Joe Root Become England’s Best Ever Captain?
In the modern era of cricket, there are few finer batsmen in the sport than Joe Root. Not only is he a world-class operator at the crease, especially when playing spin, but he’s also a highly-rated captain. Currently, England’s leading player regarding the number of matches as captain in Test matches is Alastair Cook, who held the role on 59 occasions between 2010 and 2016. At the time of writing, Root, by comparison, is on 47 games. There’s every possibility that the 30-year-old will become England’s longest-serving captain, but will he end his reign as the country's all-time best captain?
How Does he Compare?
There are various ways to quantify a captain’s impact on the national team. Regarding Cook, his longevity sees him stand out from the rest of the pack. However, this isn’t the only determining factor. According to ESPN Cricinfo, throughout his six-year spell as captain, the 36-year-old won 40.67 per cent of his Test matches as captain and lost 37.28 per cent. As such, this showcases that longevity alone isn't decisive.
Across Root’s 47 games as captain, he’s currently been victorious in 53.19 per cent of them. Moreover, he’s only lost 31.91 per cent. Of course, Root has captained fewer games than Cook, so there’s currently less data. That said, in 12 fewer matches, the 30-year-old has won one more game than Cook, with 25 triumphs under his belt.
Fascinatingly, this tally places Root one behind the captain with the most wins in England history, Michael Atherton. Although he only won 24.07 per cent of his matches, he does boast a record of 26 wins in 54 games. Despite the above names, many believe that Mike Brearley remains the country’s best Test captain. Throughout his tenure, he enjoyed a 19-match unbeaten streak on home soil, Ashes success in 1981, and a win percentage of 58.06.
Not Just the Best Captain, But Potentially the Best Player
In England’s recent highly-anticipated series with India, the 30-year-old played his 100th Test match. As such, it speaks volumes about his pedigree that he’s captained the side in just under 50 per cent of his total red-ball appearances. However, it hasn’t always been a walk in the park for the Sheffield-born right-hander. Following an unsuccessful series against South Africa in December 2019 and January 2020, Root's ability to manage his batting with leadership responsibilities came under fire.
Interestingly, Vaughan believes that Root could finish his international career as the best player in English cricket’s history. As per figures from the Telegraph, few players who’ve played 100 Test matches boast better batting figures than the 30-year-old. Currently, he holds the record for the highest average, most runs, and most half-centuries. Furthermore, he’s ranked seventh regarding total three-figure scores.
Make no mistake about it, collective success will help to cement Root’s legacy. In years gone by, England have had fewer big-game players than their current captain. That said, like any sport, results speak for themselves. Winning the 2021-22 Ashes series in Australia, which England are currently 11/4 to win in cricket betting as of February 5th, will further elevate the 30-year-old's position in the greatest-ever captain debate.
Greatness is Within his Grasp
Statistically, it’s not unreasonable to argue that Root is England’s most well-rounded captain. With a near-record total of victories and a 50-plus win percentage, few compare to the Sheffield-born batsman. Because of this, surpassing Brearley’s legacy isn’t beyond the realms of possibility, and an Ashes win would undoubtedly aid the 30-year-old's case in being named England’s best ever captain.