My average dropped with the England captaincy, but Joe Root can take his batting to another level - his tenure will be great to watch

Joe Root
Joe Root has the talent and temperament to succeed as England Test captain Credit: rex

A captain needs the respect of his players for the way he has played, how he has reacted to pressure in the past and his attitude to the game. Dealing with pressure and deflecting it away from the players is one of the captain’s main roles. 

Over the last two or three years Joe Root has dealt with pressure out on the field with the bat in his hand as well as anybody so the first box is ticked in terms of respect from his team-mates.

The tactical side of the job is an unknown. But Joe will think outside the box. He will be a guy who tries to be proactive out in the middle and out-think the batsman who is performing against his side. 

He has in abundance that inner drive to win and achieve. You can see that from the way he plays. He does not need to change his mentality. Whacking his bat, effing and blinding when dismissed might have to go because Joe will have to understand the captain has a camera on him all the time. But you do not want to take the passion and emotion out of someone. It worked for Nasser Hussain. Virat Kohli is very in your face and does not hide out in the middle. I do not mind that at all. 

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Joe’s biggest challenge will be how captaincy affects his batting. It affected mine. My average as captain was 37. Did it reduce my batting by 15 percent? Yes. Did I improve the other players around me? Yes, I think I did and that levelled it up. If Joe loses a bit of his batting, but improves everyone else then he is doing a good job. 

To be honest I think he will be different to me. He is more likely to become Kohli and move his batting on to another level with the responsibility of captaincy. One area he can improve is scoring hundreds. He does not score enough of them and the captaincy might sharpen his focus to see the job through.

The Test team can improve with the bat. They are good in gears four or five when the ball is not doing a great deal and they are free to score quickly. They have plenty of flamboyant players who are good to watch. But the challenge for any batsman is batting at the right tempo. You cannot be in the fast lane of the M1 all the time. A Test match innings is like a journey across the Pennines. There is the odd dual carriageway when you can put your foot down, but there are also many junctions when you have to stop, look around and assess the situation. That is the one thing Joe has to bring to this team. You do not want to lose the positivity and aggression, but there will be periods in England and in Australia in the winter when Joe’s team will have to dig in and fight through periods. 

England have to learn and adapt and Joe can bring that by setting the example himself. He is the best batsman in the team and it will be up to him to show them what levels he expects.

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England can be a fitter team and that applies to Joe as well. He could be physically stronger. That might be one of the reasons why he does not turn his fifties into hundreds. If you look at Kohli, he is the definition of the modern cricketer. He was earning millions in 2012 and was already a huge star in India but he changed his ways and focussed on being fitter and stronger to become an even better player.

Joe can learn from that and make his team more dynamic. One of the easiest aspects to control in the team is fielding. England’s fielding unit could easily save 15-20 runs a day. I think his running between the wicket is excellent. He can demand they all run between the wickets like him. The energy he and Jonny Bairstow bring to the crease can be the example for the rest. If he demands the team run between the wickets like him and Bairstow, then they will nick 15-20 runs per day. If you start doing that and saving 15-20 runs with the fielding all of a sudden you are starting to swing tight matches your way. 

Ultimately his main challenge will be to prepare the team for Australia. He might have to be ruthless in selection. He is going to have to oversee that transitional period because James Anderson will be coming to the end shortly. He has to deal with that properly and professionally and decide when it is time to move Jimmy on or not play him for a few games. 

He also has to work out the best way of getting a spinner into the game. Is Moeen Ali improving? If not, is Jack Leach the better spinner? If so, pick him. I was lucky to have Duncan Fletcher as a coach. He always gave me the team I wanted. Trevor Bayliss will be the same. I just hope the other selectors realise they have an incredible player in Joe and give him the team he wants. 

Root (left) will replace Alastair Cook as England Test captain Credit: PA

Over the next five months before his first Test in charge against South Africa in July, Joe has to do a lot of work with the players and the backroom team so he knows exactly who those people are. He might think he knows them now but it is only as captain that you realise what makes people tick. 

It is vital Joe understands the personalities he is leading and will be taking out on the field. Find out what motivates them, what drives them, what gets them out of bed in the morning, and what makes them nervous. He needs real honesty from his players and that can only come from one-to-one meetings in private. He will then know exactly what that personality is thinking when the pressure is on and will know how to motivate that person when he is going out to bat or with the ball in his hand on a pressurised day. If you have done your research on the people you are managing it is a lot easier to handle them on those tough days.

Most of all, he has to be lucky and enjoy it. You will not enjoy every minute. When Alastair Cook said he enjoyed every minute I didn’t believe him. It is a great job but there are dark days, dark weeks, when it is tough. But you have to understand those are part and parcel of the job. Joe will need as much support as he gives the players. The captain is a human being. He will have ups and downs and the coach will need to manage him as much as Joe manages the players.

Joe is ready. No question. I get baffled when people say he is not. Will he be a ready-made, perfect captain from day one? Of course not. Who is? He has to learn on the job. But most international captain have to do that these days. In terms of clout, he has everything you require to be captain. What more do you need? He is a good man. He is driven. He is always trying to improve. He never settles with what he has got. I remember he scored a hundred in a one-day game at Trent Bridge in 2015 and the first thing he did was ring me on the way home and asked me: 'Did you see anything I can improve?' I thought: 'Blimey, I never scored a one-day hundred, what do I know?' But that is Joe. 

I look at Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho. They are always trying to tinker and improve. The best leaders can’t sleep. They are on the ball 24/7. Joe will be that style of leader. He will be constantly trying to improve, asking himself did I make the right decisions? Could I have done it better? That is why it is going to be good to watch England over the next few years.