The Ashes: Joe Root reserves energy to fight Aussies, not critics
England, burdened with three crushing defeats to eternal rivals Australia, have a lot on their plate as they try to reinvent their game in order to stage a turnaround in the ongoing Ashes, which will have its fourth Test in Sydney from Wednesday.
With the team embarrassingly outplayed by the hosts so far, Joe Root’s problems are many. He has almost exhausted all the options at his disposal without reaping any favourable result. So pathetic has been England’s display that it’s difficult to pinpoint and say what exactly they need to improve. They need to lift their game quite a few notches — batsmen should be scoring more runs and be more responsible, bowlers need to add some zing to their act and Root must devise a way to motivate his low-on-morale team.
Chances of all that happening together is slim given how the trend has been in this Ashes so far.
The Australians have been right on the ball with their game. They have been dominating even when they have missed key players. Pat Cummins would just need his team to be focused in their hunt for a 5-0 sweep. It looks quite possible.
Root’s problems have only multiplied with critics wanting him out as the England captain. But the 31-year-old does not want to “waste energy” talking about it in the run-up to the fourth Test.
“At the end of the day ... I don’t think as a distraction that should be around the group or I should be wasting energy on right now,” Root told reporters on Monday.
“I need to make sure to throw everything I can into these two games. I think I owe that to this team and to the players and give us the best chance of getting the results that we desire.”
England coach Chris Silverwood, whose own future has also been called into question, has tested positive for Covid-19 while two net bowlers provided for their training session were withdrawn on Sunday after contracting the virus.
The Broad point
Even as England scratch their head to fix the final XI for Sydney, Australia batsman Steve Smith said he was “a bit surprised” that seamer Stuart Broad has not played a bigger part in the Ashes series.
Broad missed the opening Test in Brisbane and the most recent encounter in Melbourne. “We have been a bit surprised,” Smith said. “(Brisbane and Melbourne were) two wickets that would have suited him pretty well.
“He bowled well in Adelaide. He’s always been a good contest for me.”
England’s selections have been criticised during the series and it is unclear who will make up the visitors’ attack in Sydney. “(Broad) and Jimmy (Anderson) together are two world-class performers, they have been for a long time,” said Smith. “Maybe we’ll see them out here together this week, I’m not sure.”
Waiting for century
Smith has yet to hit a century in the series, with the 93 runs he scored in the first innings of the second Test in Adelaide his highest tally so far. His last century came a year ago when he got one against India at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
“It’s been a little while since I’ve scored a hundred but I got close in Adelaide,” Smith said.
“I think we’ve played on some bowler-friendly wickets in the first three Tests. They haven’t been huge scoring games, so it’s been tough to get rhythm and get into a groove, but hopefully this week I spend a lot of time out there and score a big one and help us continue to have success as a team.”
(Written with agency inputs)
Match starts: 5am IST on Wednesday, live on Sony Sports Network