Australia is in a sorry state at the moment that it doesn’t know which way to turn
The sacking of Australia’s coach Mickey Arthur, the latest in sad misfortune for the Aussies, obscured what will probably turn out to be a much more significant piece of news: the promotion of Joe Root to open the innings with England’s captain Alastair Cook during the Ashes series.
Root has never let England down, at 22 he shows a maturity that ill suits his teenage choirboy face, and he has played several innings in the Champions Trophy that shamed his team-mates.
Yet the wise old heads of the recently retired players — many in the television studios — seem reluctant to acknowledge that he has booked a permanent place in England’s side. He has replaced Nick Compton, grandson of the 1940s wonder boy Denis and therefore the sentimental choice.
The unsentimental realists —often described as the loudest voices in the dressing room — have no doubt Root is here to stay which explains why the selectors have named him as an opener in the first Test on July 10.
The Root story is similar to that of Len Hutton, David Gower and Kevin Pietersen. Hutton was being spoken of as a top class batsman when he was still a schoolboy taking a Saturday away from his week-end home work to practise with the senior Yorkshire players at Headingley.
Herbert Sutcliffe, the England opener, was told he should not have backed Hutton so heavily in his autobiography — written when Hutton was 18.
Gower was given high marks as a teenager by Ray Illingworth, a recent England captain; everyone at Nottingham knew KP would be a Test great (even though his team-mates found him difficult.) Root has the backing of Michael Vaughan who began his career with Sheffield Collegiate just like Root and Geoff Boycott who was also promoted to an Ashes side unexpectedly and allowed time to develop so that his first England century did not come until his fourth Test.
My judgement is that Root will surpass the deeds of many who now seem to find it difficult to remember his name.
His bat is straight, his ability to leave the ball around off stump is without fault — as you might expect of a lad raised on testing Yorkshire pitches — and a natural-born opener and he is so calm that he ought to be renamed Joe Cool.
All he needs is a bit of luck and he may have already been granted that blessing.
Sacking of Arthur
The sacking of Arthur — for defeats, for the farce of the players’ homework in India and for being knocked out of the Champions Trophy so early — is just one sign that Australia is in such a state at the moment that it doesn’t know which way to turn.
An Englishman ought to be hysterical with laughter; in fact I feel rather sorry for the team after reporting the often hapless England path for around 15 years.
Once a good team crumbles, results go wrong, injuries come more frequently and good fortune turns sour.
Selectors panic, pick the wrong captain, choose unsuitable bowlers, forget the old maxim “everyone bats, everyone fields” and report that a ridged, broken, dry pitch is flat and full of runs.
I have seen it all happen with England. It is the Aussies who are suffering now. Just the right moment to push a fresh-faced kid like Root; except that Darren Lehman, the new Aussie coach, as followers of IPL know, is far from a fool and perhaps shrewd enough to give England a rough moment or two.
Let’s hope so because at the moment the Ashes series promises to be one-sided and dull.