Joe Root believes he is the man to captain England on their next Ashes tour in four-year’s time.
While Root has been stung by the pain of defeat, he believes the lessons he has learned will stand him in good stead when the side returns to Australia. And, just as he now views being dropped from the Sydney Test at the end of the 2013-14 Ashes as “one of the best things that ever happened to me,” he now feels he has “gained a lot” from the experience of this series that will prove beneficial in the future.
“Of course I want to captain England here in four years,” Root said. “Yes, it’s been a long trip with stuff that you don’t want to have to deal with on occasions but I think I’ve gained a lot from that.
“I’m looking forward to the different challenges that will present themselves after this trip. I want us to be the best side in the world and that’s not going to happen overnight.”
Among the lessons Root says he has learned is the requirement for more pace and spin in England’s attack and the need for England’s batsmen to make far greater contributions. And while he remains hugely respectful of the skills James Anderson offers England, he knows they cannot continue to rely upon a bowler who is now 35 years-old and almost certainly playing his final Test in Australia in the coming days.
“Let’s be honest, there are going to be certain changes in the seam-bowling department in four years’ time unless we’re rolling Jimmy Anderson out at 40 or whatever he’s going to be,” Root said. “An extra bit of pace could be very important next time round. Having someone like Mark Wood fit for a long period of time could be very useful.
“We’ve also seen how crucial the spin department can be over here, so we have to make sure it is as strong as it can be. And, as a batting group, we’ve got to be prepared to bat for long, long periods of time.”
No captain in modern times has led England in successive away Ashes series (Mike Brearley led England in two away Test series against Australia, but only one was granted Ashes status) but Root, who celebrated his 27th birthday on the last day of the Melbourne Test, has the time and, it seems, the energy to try again in four years. So while some critics – notably Graeme Swann – have suggested England are compromising Root’s effectiveness as a batsman by burdening him with leadership, Root himself is adamant that the example of Steve Smith has inspired him to lead from the front in similar fashion.
“You see that and you want to be the one doing it,” Root said. “Smith has probably been the difference between the teams. Take his runs out of it and we’ve been there or thereabouts to win.
“So credit to him. He’s played exceptionally well. But it’s a little lesson to me on leading from the front.”
Root’s previous experiences in Sydney – he was dropped at the end of the 2013-14 series as England gave debuts to three players – not only inspired him to work harder than ever to regain his place, but taught him that “chucking guys in for the last game of a series” was no way to improve the side. Scott Borthwick, Boyd Rankin and Gary Ballance all made their Test debuts in Sydney in 2014, with only Ballance going on to play another Test for England.
“Being dropped made a big impact on my career,” Root said. “Being left out was one of the best things that ever happened to me.
“Coming back into the team you have a slightly different view on things. You go away and give yourself the opportunity to work extremely hard on areas you want to look at. You have a different drive and determination moving forward.
“Once you have played for England, you never want to do anything else. You don’t want to just play county cricket. You want to be in and around international cricket for as long as you can. It’s very easy to get that determination and drive to see where you need to get back to.
“But we’re not going to improve by chucking guys in for the last game of a series. It’s really important that next time we come here, we don’t look at it in a daunted way, or feel like there’s a massive gap between the two sides, because if we do things in the right way we’ve got a really good chance next time round.
“It’s really important that we start look at what we have to do now and not too far down the line. The planning for it has to start now.”