Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Will captaincy spoil Joe Root's batting?

Joe Root is the new England cricket captain, the 80th to be given the honour. Obviously, some have done better than others. He was the obvious candidate - England's best batsman over the last few years, and one of the best in the world - but is it a good idea to make your best player captain?

Concerns have already been raised. Former England spinner Graeme Swann told the BBC "I'm still not convinced Root is the right man for the job. I want him to concentrate on being the best player we have ever had, rather than having his talent curbed by the pressures of captaincy", and Jimmy Anderson added "The decision is a big one because he's our best player, so you obviously don't want that to be affected."

It's been a long-held view that becoming captain can seriously affect your batting average, but do the stats actually agree? His predecessor, Alistair Cook, had pretty much the same average as captain as he did beforehand, as did Andrew Strauss, and Graham Gooch and Mike Atherton scored better as captain than when not captain. Away from England, the only two batsmen above Root in the world rankings, Steve Smith and Virat Kohli, have both improved their averages considerably since taking over as national captain.

So is the negative impact on batting just a myth then? Perhaps it comes in part from the experience of Ian Botham. Maybe he's a slightly different case as an all-rounder, but he was averaging 40 when he was appointed captain in 1980, only to average just 14 whilst skipper. After being relieved of the responsibility he immediately rediscovered his form in one of the most famous test matches of all time - the Headingley test of 1981.

So perhaps, as he's not an all-rounder, Joe Root will start to score even more runs as captain. England fans will certainly hope so, especially with another Ashes series just around the corner.