England's next Test captain February 7, 2017

If not Root, then who?

Joe Root is the red-hot favourite to succeed Alastair Cook as Test captain - but might there be a few other contenders in the Test squad?

Barring a shock change of heart, Joe Root will be confirmed as England's 80th Test captain at some point in the next two weeks. But supposing the selectors don't want to over-burden their most important multi-format batsman. Where else might they turn?

Ben Stokes

A left-field selection - and one from which the selectors will almost certainly run screaming in the opposite direction, given what happened when their last world-class allrounder, Andrew Flintoff, was handed the leadership (and in an Ashes year to boot). It's not that Stokes does not boast considerable leadership attributes - he was, after all, Jos Buttler's deputy for the recent ODIs in Bangladesh, and there is a burgeoning maturity to his game that leaves his days of punched lockers and tour expulsions as ever more distant memories. But, let's face it, he is simply too precious to England's balance, in all forms of the game, to risk cluttering his free spirit with too many field placings and management issues. Verdict - Don't even go there

Jos Buttler

He was quietly impressive in his brief stint as stand-in ODI skipper - or not so quietly, as was the case on one occasion in Bangladesh, when he took vocal exception to the antics of Sabbir Rahman during a heated contest at Dhaka. That incident showcased a fiery streak that contrasts with his otherwise softly spoken demeanour and, perversely, lends a touch more authority to any leadership claims that he might have. Then again, Buttler has only just been restored to the Test line-up after a year dominated by the demands of white-ball cricket, and - for all that Trevor Bayliss is a fan - with the twin objectives of the Champions Trophy and the 2019 World Cup firmly in the ECB's sights, the Test captaincy would be an extraordinary distraction for one of their most likely trophy-winners. Verdict - Wrong ball-game

Jonny Bairstow

Bairstow's breakthrough year in 2016 was simply remarkable. From the moment of his emotional maiden Test century at Cape Town in January, he announced himself as one of England's most reliable sources of runs, and in the process, he shattered Andy Flower's long-standing record for runs by a wicketkeeper-batsman in a calendar year. Admittedly, his glovework isn't to everyone's taste, but if captaincy is about balancing the demands of run-making with extra on-field duties, then Bairstow's prior experience gives him an edge. Of course, it is about much, much more than that as well, and where he might struggle is in his often hot-headed approach to interpersonal relationships - not least with the media. Perhaps revealingly, despite being a regular on the county circuit during his long absence from the England set-up, his captaincy experience at Yorkshire has been limited to a solitary T20 match. Verdict - Stick to the batting

Keaton Jennings

There would be shades of Graeme Smith's appointment as South Africa captain in 2003, were England to take the bold step of promoting a little-known Johannesburg-born opener after just a handful of senior-team appearances. But there is clearly something about Jennings' credentials that impress the men who make such decisions. In the space of a few weeks, he scored a century on Test debut, was put in charge of England Lions in Sri Lanka, and then named Durham's 50-over captain; and as the hard-drilled son of a disciplinarian former South Africa coach, he has been primed from a young age to take responsibility for his actions, and presumably those of others. This time around, the role might have come too soon, but at the age of 24, he's likely to be in his prime if he can make himself a regular England pick between now and the next change of leadership. Verdict - Next time, maybe?

Stuart Broad

In the course of his series-sealing 6 for 17 at Johannesburg last year, Stuart Broad romped past Bob Willis to become England's third-highest wicket-taker in Test history. And who's to say he couldn't finish his career by emulating Willis in another manner - by becoming England's first fast-bowling captain since 1984? He has been an England leader before, of course - he was T20 captain until Eoin Morgan was quietly handed the joint white-ball role in 2015 - and, aged 30, he is still young enough and good enough to remain a first-choice Test pick for several seasons to come. Plus, he was one of the few England players to emerge with credit from the wastelands of England's last Ashes tour in 2013-14. As he showed by grinning his way through a newspaper vendetta at the Gabba three years ago, Broad has broad enough shoulders to take the heat when the going gets tough Down Under. Verdict - The best of the rest?

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket

Comments have now been closed for this article

  •   jamesandersan on February 13, 2017, 19:15 GMT

    Soo sad England will miss cook captaincy i think Strauss bad dicision to cook step down captaincy j root good batsman but not exprience

  • rengar7343218 on February 11, 2017, 2:55 GMT

    Root is the natural choice

  • Jose on February 11, 2017, 0:24 GMT

    Can someone, anyone, give a convincing logic, why Root should NOT be chosen? To put it differently, why this debate at all? I can understand, a debate like this, probably cropping up after a year or two IF (yes IF) Root fails as a captain.

    P.S. Thinking aloud for some possible reasons.

    1. He is absolutely the best test batsman in the England team, and England should preserve him for tests. Then why you play him in the short formats at all?

    2. Some good batsmen may not like to be burdened with captaincy, and in such cases, the batting may get affected. Is there any evidence to even remotely suggest that Root may not like the 'burden' of captaincy?


    Some food for thought; and more importantly, some possible answer/s.

  • Saeed on February 10, 2017, 23:50 GMT

    If not Root, then Morgan say aye ...

  • Blessing on February 10, 2017, 20:47 GMT

    Rather bizzare choices put forward by the writer of this article. Keaton Jennings, Butler and Stokes are laughable choices to say the least. When i heard Cook was retiring i immediately thought: Joe Root. Virat Kohli of India is having no trouble what so ever being captain and smashing runs (in fact he has become even better) and i don't see why Root can't do the same.

  • Gopalakrishna on February 10, 2017, 15:33 GMT

    Just as an extension to my previous comments, England cricket is not like Australian, India,SA and NZ cricket. England players have to be tightly knitted and should play as one strong unit, other teams like Australia, India,SA and NZ are of different culture. England captain should be a player who should be highly respected in dressing room (Mike B an example). Another thing that should be a defining quality of captain is he should be able to get 100% and more out of every resource at his disposal and should be a tactical genius like (Tayler, Waugh, Gavasker, Atherton and Hussain) Yes Atherton and Hssain, so my choices re Broad and Baristew.

  • Gopalakrishna on February 10, 2017, 14:30 GMT

    My two cents on this as world wide opinion is given on this subject. I think England selectors will not do mistakes like what they did during early 80s with Botham and early 90s with others (don't want to name them as some of them were truly great captains but teams were not good). This time selectors should prefer some one not like Root, it is nothing against Root, but captaincy if at all impacts his batting badly then world cricket will loose one great legend in making and same applies to Mr. Stokes. So if some one puts into these two players mind that captaincy is not a burden that should hinder their allround cricketing abilities that will do a great favor to world and England cricket. Look we have umpteen examples in English cricket whose actual cricketing abilities got effected badly because of captaincy. Bairstaw or Broad should be captain since both of them derive respect from all other players and can lead from front with their cricketing abilities and their records also back.

  • Mark on February 10, 2017, 9:08 GMT

    England have interviewed Root, Stokes and Broad for the job. No other candidates, it seems.

  • cricfan80792677 on February 9, 2017, 19:49 GMT

    Broad? Are you kidding me! Buttler or Mo!

  •   Muru Gaiyan on February 9, 2017, 16:42 GMT

    Please give the role to some one on short term basis. Hope ECB will speak with few players and get to know who are very keen and what they can bring to table. they can get to know who might be get respected more in dressing room too. Its sad, Eng not groomed any one for the role properly. No one even have county experience too.

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