England in Australia 2021-22 – Joe Root ‘desperate’ for success in Australia, but can’t yet commit to tour

Joe Root says he cannot yet commit to captaining England in Australia this winter, or taking part in the series at all, even though he is “desperate” to carry his formidable run of form into the Ashes, and so improve his record in one of the few countries where he has yet to score a Test century.

Root, 30, has been named as the cinch PCA Men’s Player of the Year after a stellar 2021 in which he has scored six of his team’s seven centuries in 12 Tests, including four scores of 180-plus. With a total of 1455 runs at 66.13 for the calendar year so far, he still has a realistic chance to overhaul Mohammad Yousuf’s record haul of 1788 runs, set back in 2006.

However, with one Test postponement already this year, following India’s withdrawal from last month’s series decider at Old Trafford, the prospect remains that Root and England will not play another Test in 2021, as negotiations continue between the ECB and Cricket Australia over the team’s impending quarantine arrangements.

Although the ECB is understood to have received an updated brief from CA with “better than expected” guidelines – including an ability to train and move freely within their hotel during their 14-day quarantine period and some flexibility thereafter – the details have yet to be shared with the players. Their confidence in the arrangements is unlikely to have been improved by the overnight news that Tasmania’s Sheffield Shield fixture against Queensland has been postponed indefinitely after four new Covid cases were reported in the state. Brisbane is due to host the opening Ashes Test on December 8.

“We are still waiting for some information,” Root said. “Hopefully that will be with us soon. It’s a little bit frustrating but it’s where we are at. It’s so hard to know until we find out what the conditions are going to be like. Hopefully it’ll be coming shortly and we can start moving forward.”

Root has toured Australia twice in his career, as a rookie in 2013-14 during England’s ill-fated 5-0 whitewash, and again as captain four years later, when he made five half-centuries in as many Tests but a highest score of 83 in the final Test at Sydney, as Australia wrapped up another comprehensive 4-0 win.

Given England’s stated aim at the start of the year, of winning back the Ashes in Australia, and Root’s own decision to stay on as captain after the 2-2 home draw in 2019, his conflict is palpable ahead of a series that ought to be a career-defining moment. However, with the squad determined to present a united front, particularly given the likely restrictions on families joining the tour, Root insists it’s hard to make a “definite decision” on whether he will be able to lead the tour.

“It’s really important everyone makes a decision that they’re comfortable with,” Root said. “There’s so many different factors that fall into it, so we just have to be patient, and wait until we know what’s happening and then make a decision on the back of that.

“I’m very hopeful, and think I speak on behalf of everyone that Ashes cricket – an away tour to Australia – is one of those things that you’re just desperate to be on,” he added. “The position I’m at in my career, it could be the last opportunity I get to go, so of course it’s something you’re desperate to do, to hopefully make history over there and be part of something very special. Until we have information it’s very difficult to know where everything sits.”

Although Root’s average in Australia is creditable by most players’ standards – 38.00 from nine matches – it is still his lowest in any Test-hosting country bar Bangladesh, where he has played just twice, while the UAE is the only other country where he hasn’t made one of his 23 Test hundreds. Given his form this year, which has taken him back to the top of the ICC batting rankings, he knows he may never get a better chance to set the record straight.

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