Joe Root to remain England Test captain as Graham Thorpe becomes latest Ashes casualty

Graham Thorpe has joined Chris Silverwood in paying the price for England’s Ashes debacle, but Joe Root will continue as captain for the upcoming tour of West Indies, after receiving the endorsement of Andrew Strauss, England’s interim director of cricket.
Speaking at Lord’s in the wake of Thursday’s sacking of Silverwood as head coach, Strauss – who was himself appointed on Wednesday in place of the outgoing director of men’s cricket, Ashley Giles – admitted that Root was feeling “bruised” after England’s 4-0 defeat in the Ashes, the second time he has led the team to such a scoreline down under.

However, Strauss added, Root retains the “energy and motivation” to carry on, as well as the respect of the players – understandably so, after an incredible run of form in 2021, in which he scored 1708 Test runs at 61.00, more than three times more than any of his team-mates, as well as six of England’s seven Test centuries in the calendar year.

“Having spoken to Joe, it is absolutely clear the extent of his commitment to taking this side forward,” Strauss said. “He has incredible motivation and energy to do that. He is bruised, and hugely disappointed by what went on in the Ashes but he sets a magnificent example, both on and off the field, so I will give him my full support and make sure he has right structure around him to take pressure off him and make sure he can do his job properly.”

Thorpe, however, has become England’s third Ashes casualty in as many days. His position had become untenable in the fallout from a tour clouded not only by poor results on the field, but by reports of an off-field drinking culture and poor fitness levels.

With Thorpe’s primary remit being the oversight of the squad’s batters, the fact that England failed to pass 300 in ten attempts during the Ashes told against him, while his fate was effectively sealed following a bizarre incident on the morning after the fifth Test in Hobart, when the police had to be called after he reportedly lit a cigar in an indoor space in the team hotel.

However, with the Test squad due to depart for the Caribbean on February 24, in less than three weeks’ time, no interim coaching appointments have yet been announced. Given that Silverwood’s remit had been expanded to include squad selection, following the removal of national selector Ed Smith last summer, Strauss confirmed that the tour party will be picked by panel, the make-up of which will be determined by the identity of the interim head coach.

Potential names in the frame for that role include Alec Stewart, Surrey’s director of cricket who has expressed an interest in the post, as well as the Young Lions head coach Richard Dawson, who is currently in the Caribbean preparing for the Under-19 World Cup final, and the incumbent assistant coach, Paul Collingwood, who oversaw last week’s 3-2 defeat in the T20Is against West Indies.

“There are some soundings-out to be done, both inside and outside the organisation, and there are some decisions to be made about the actual focus of this tour,” Strauss added. “You can look at it in a number of ways – we are in the business of winning, and it’s very, very important we go out there and win, but it is also about looking forwards, so we have to look at that, both with regards to the interim coach, but also with our approach to selection and everything else associated with that.”

“There is always scrutiny on your position [as England captain], especially when you lose Ashes series. I am sure Joe felt that. I think at this moment in time he is 100% the right person to take the team forward”

Andrew Strauss

England have won just one series in the Caribbean since 1968, and were defeated 2-1 on their last visit, in the spring of 2019. Strauss – who captained England’s tour of the West Indies in similarly chaotic circumstances in 2009 – said the onus was on the players themselves to lift their standards.

“I think the players are the ones that go on the pitch, and they are accountable for their performances,” he said. “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see performances have been poor for the last 12 months. Anyone who thinks otherwise is deluding themselves. The players have to hold up their hands, accept they have to get better. They have the best possible example right there with them in the dressing room in Joe Root in terms of what world-class performance looks like. That has to be their ambition, to reach that level of performance.

“The job of the coaching staff is to provide the right environment for them to do that. Make sure no stone is left unturned in helping them achieve that. International cricket is a tough old gig and you have to have resilience, toughness, you have to want it. That is the challenge for those players.

“I know what it’s like as England captain. There is always scrutiny on your position, especially when you lose Ashes series. I am sure Joe felt that. I think at this moment in time he is 100% the right person to take the team forward. At some stage in the future we will have a new managing director, a new head coach, they will look at things with fresh eyes. For me he’s a great example to those young players and he needs our support right now.”

Strauss confirmed that he would not be interested in returning to the England director job on a full-time basis, but said he was “always keen to help English cricket going forward and this role is manageable”.

On the subject of who might take charge as Silverwood’s successor, Strauss said that while he wouldn’t rule out Justin Langer – Australia’s current men’s head coach but involved in ongoing internal wrangling about a contract extension – it would depend on the requirements for the role.

“Now let’s take a step back. What are we looking for? Are we looking for split coaches or one coach? And what are the requirements in each of those formats, so to speak. Justin Langer, I know him well. On the surface, he’s done a very good job of that with the Australian team. So I wouldn’t rule him out, but I’m sure there are plenty of others as well.”

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket

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