Who could replace Joe Root as England Test cricket captain? Stuart Broad and Ben Stokes among contenders

Joe Root has stepped down as England’s Test cricket captain.

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England’s red ball catastrophes have continued once more, as Joe Root and his men lost yet another Test and series, stretching their run without a win to nine Tests - something which has now led to Root stepping down as captain.

The new team that was picked for the West Indies was supposed to signal a fresher, younger and brighter change for the future of English Test cricket, and while there were some sparkling lights, the overall sky was murky and grey, resulting in the same outcome England fans have grown accustomed to seeing.

England have only one once in the Caribbean since 1968, but after such a disastrous humiliation in Australia, it was thought that they had reached the lowest of the lows - could it really get much worse than a 4-0 Ashes defeat?

Apparently it could. After two strong Test matches that resulted in draws, a now trademark England-style batting collapse saw a 10-wicket defeat in the series decider.

With a fresh coaching team being lined up and a new director of Cricket set to be appointed soon, there remains only one key position yet to be changed: the captain.

Root has been England’s most successful captain, winning 27 out of 64 games, but in the last year, he has overseen just one win in 17 Tests going back to February 2021. Now he is gone.

The Yorkshireman’s role was already on the line ahead of the West Indies series, and while his batting has been one of the very few highlights for England cricket fans of late, his centuries and half centuries have ultimately not been enough to help his team win matches.

The main problem that England face is the potential struggle to find a viable replacement.

With such a change in the squad for the West Indies, and the stream of top-order batters on rotation often finding it impossible to make it to lunch, who is the most likely candidate for the role?

Ben Stokes

Stokes is the most obvious candidate for the role. He is the team’s current vice-captain and often their saviour - capable of taking wickets under pressure situations, and boasting a strong track record of match-winning heroics with the bat.

One of the more consistent players in the side, it is most likely that the ECB would turn to the Durham all-rounder to follow in Root’s footsteps.

Stokes recently scored his 11th Test century and his 26th half-century. With a batting average of 35.89 and over 5,000 Test runs scored, there is no doubting that at his best, Ben Stokes is one of the finest cricketers in the world.

Since his return to the international squad, Stokes has under-performed in comparison to what fans are used to, but the glorious century he made in Barbados (120 off 128 balls) was a thrilling reminder of his formidable capabilities.

However, having recently taken a four month break away from the game citing mental health reasons, questions may be asked by the board, and himself, as to whether he is ready for the relentless pressure and responsibility of such a role.

Stuart Broad

Broad has often been on the periphery of conversations whenever the captaincy comes up. He was one of the few to be interviewed the last time the captaincy was available, and he may well be in the running again if Root gets the chop.

Having been in the squad since 2007, Broad would bring a wealth of experience into the role and with 537 wickets to his name, no-one can deny that he is a phenomenal bowler.

Bowlers as captains are a rare sight, however. It doesn’t often pay well to have one of your fast bowlers as the leading man, often for fear they may play themselves too much.

Furthermore, given their on-field duties, bowlers don’t have the luxury of observing the game from a fielding position for large stretches of the game that batters do.

However, as England’s previous captaincy was not working, maybe a change in perspective would be beneficial.

The other main problem with the Nottingham bowler is his age - at 35, many may well question the longevity of his captaincy if he were to be appointed.

Broad, left, celebrates last-wicket stand with James Anderson in Sydney 2021Broad, left, celebrates last-wicket stand with James Anderson in Sydney 2021
Broad, left, celebrates last-wicket stand with James Anderson in Sydney 2021

The England selectors received large amounts of criticism for not picking Broad or his fellow veteran James Anderson for the West Indies series, citing the desire to develop younger players as one of the reasons for their decisions.

But their recent efforts Down Under and constant dedication to the game highlight that neither have any desire to slow down any time soon, and that their age is of no consequence to their ability to shine at the highest level.

Jonny Bairstow

This seems a more unlikely direction for the ECB to go in, but nevertheless Jonny Bairstow may also find himself on a list of captaincy contenders.

Bairstow has often found himself fighting for a position within the squad. The rise of Ollie Pope, for example, has come at the cost of either Jos Buttler or Bairstow’s place in the England camp, but the latter’s recent form has been a lifeline for England.

He scored England’s only century in the recent Ashes debacle and followed that up with a terrific ton in England’s first match against the West Indies, helping them secure a draw.

Bairstow celebrating Sydney CenturyBairstow celebrating Sydney Century
Bairstow celebrating Sydney Century

Having been a feature in the England Test squad since 2012, much like Broad, Bairstow would also have the worldly experience to bring to the role.

However, with his form notoriously inconsistent, the ECB may hope that Bairstow focuses on continuing his impressive run-scoring efforts, rather than troubling the 32-year-old with any further pressures.

Who else has had their name mentioned?

Sam Billings’ name has been bandied around recently, but as he has received just one cap in England’s Test squad - it is highly improbable, although not impossible, that the wicket-keeper will find himself as England’s 82nd captain.

James Anderson is another player who fans may hope to see take over from Root, but as he finds himself in almost a worse predicament to Stuart Broad, with an additional four years on him, this doesn’t look too likely either.

When is England’s next Test series?

England need to choose a new captain ahead of their next Test on 2 June.

New Zealand will travel to England to play in a three-match Test series in June and July.

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