If not Root, then who?
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?
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
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
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
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?
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