NEWS

Captain Root 'cannot wait' for Ashes challenge

February 16, 2017

England's new Test cricket captain Joe Root has said he is looking forward to the challenge, particularly with an Ashes series coming up. 

Speaking in his first press conference since being appointed successor to Alastair Cook, Root commented: "I can't for the Ashes. We should all be very excited about that.

"We have a great blend of experience and raw talent and there's a core group of players that have played 20 or 30 games.

"It's a great time for them to become more consistent and to make this side really tough to beat."

The new skipper is taking over a side that had been on the brink of becoming the number one-ranked Test nation last August before losing the final Test of the summer to Pakistan, since when they have endured a torrid time in the subcontinent as they could only draw 1-1 in Bangladesh and lost 4-0 to India. 

While India's excellence at home has enabled them to snatch top spot in the rankings - they whitewashed new Zealand 3-0 before the England tour and have just won a Test against Bangladesh - the nature of defeat and the wear and tear of captaincy persuaded Cook it was time to step down.

This leaves Root with the task of trying to improve the England side this summer and fans booking corporate hospitality for the Test match at Edgbaston against the West Indies in August can see part of the side's preparation in action, with the first day-night Test in England providing some preparation for the pink ball encounter in Adelaide during the second Ashes Test. 

Root has limited experience of captaincy at first-class level, having led Yorkshire just four times, but he said he will draw on the knowledge and experience of those who have led England in the past. 

He told BBC Sport: "It would be silly not to talk to people who have been in this position before. Maybe I'll also speak to a few people away from cricket to get different perspectives on things.

"The opportunity to do that comes with a great deal of time before our next Test, hopefully I can be smart about things and use that time wisely."

Root's promise of a positive, tougher England will be music to the ears of those who have been frustrated by the inconsistency shown by the team in the past couple of years. It may also be vital if England are to win the Ashes down under.

Beating Australia in England has not proved beyond England in recent years, with the famous 2005 series starting a sequence of four successive home triumphs and ensuring Australia are already guaranteed their longest run without an Ashes series win in England. 

However, in Australia the ball swings less, the pitches are faster and bouncier and the crowds hostile, notwithstanding the presence of the Barmy Army. An England side just months from becoming world number one secured a magnificent 3-1 win in 2010-11, but two of the last three visits have ended in 5-0 whitewashes. 

The 2010-11 triumph was England's first successful Ashes tour since 1986-87, although the 24-year gap was mainly due to Australia's dominance of the cricket landscape through the 1990s and 2000s.

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