NASSER HUSSAIN: The only thing Joe Root should focus on is winning

NASSER HUSSAIN: The only thing Joe Root should focus on is winning… I don’t expect the England captain to carry the troubles of the last few days into the second Test with New Zealand

  • Joe Root and England have a chance to win the Test series against New Zealand 
  • Root has a difficult decision about the balance of his side at Edgbaston
  • The onus is on Zak Crawley and Dan Lawrence to start getting runs again

I have no doubt that England’s cricketers will be able to focus on the matter at hand at Edgbaston— winning a Test series against New Zealand.

Yes, they have had a lot to deal with since the Ollie Robinson tweets emerged. But these guys are professionals and there’s too much at stake from a cricketing point of view for them to be distracted. There are places to play for and five-Test series against India and Australia on the horizon.

I don’t for one minute expect Joe Root to carry the troubles of the last few days into the game.

I don’t expect Joe Root to carry the troubles of the last few days into the second Test against New Zealand at Edgbaston

I know from experience that off-field matters can be a burden when you’re captain. My team spent a lot of the 2003 World Cup dealing with whether we should play Zimbabwe because of human-rights abuses there.

But I was nearing the end of my time in the job and I was running out of fuel.

Root is not at that stage as a leader. He’s only 30, it’s the start of the summer and England are about to play at one of their favourite venues in front of 17,000 fans. Jimmy Anderson is set to become England’s most-capped player.

Above all, the captain will be excited.

One of the keys as leader is to have a clear mind about the cricketing decisions you need to make.

Root knows that he will have to make a difficult decision about the balance of the side

Root’s focus will very much be on what kind of team he wants against a New Zealand side missing their skipper Kane Williamson and who may have one eye on next week’s World Test Championship final against India.

Root knows he will have to make a difficult decision about the balance of the side. Without an all-rounder — be it Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes, Sam Curran or even Moeen Ali — he’s going to leave one box unticked. It’s a question of choosing the least bad option.

It’s tricky. I wouldn’t play Dom Bess simply because he’s a better batsman than Jack Leach. If you pick a frontline spinner — and I would, in this weather — you pick Leach and get Root to bowl the off-breaks.

Or they could play Craig Overton as a like-for-like replacement for Robinson, in which case it’s hard to get Leach in, unless you omit one of the fast men — Mark Wood and Olly Stone — who are both adept at finding reverse-swing, another feature of Test matches at Edgbaston.

Or do you just play all four quicks, including Anderson and Stuart Broad, and risk batting Stone at No 8 with his first-class average of 15? I remember my England team getting panned for picking four No 11s against New Zealand at the Oval in 1999. You have to be careful.

A frontline spinner is a tempting choice in this weather and Jack Leach is a contender

But it will be nice to talk about the cricket again. Will Zak Crawley and Dan Lawrence score runs to make life difficult for Chris Silverwood when Stokes and Buttler are available again? Will England have thought about how to bowl to Devon Conway after his debut double-hundred? Will Dom Sibley be allowed to carry on grinding out scores, which is what he’s been picked for?

There are plenty of people around Root to deal with all the off-field stuff and rightly so — it’s a serious matter.

I have every confidence he has his eye on the ball. The only thing he should focus on is winning, ahead of a massive series against India.




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