West Indies vs England – ‘Winning here would be a huge achievement’


Captain wants his players “to prove a point” after turbulent winter for Test side

Joe Root has described England’s three-Test series in the Caribbean as a chance “for all of us to prove a point” in the wake of a dismal winter Ashes campaign that led to a round of sackings at the ECB.

Root kept hold of the Test captaincy despite overseeing a second consecutive 4-0 defeat in Australia, but the management clearout saw Ashley Giles, Chris Silverwood and Graham Thorpe all lose their jobs. An interim selection panel headed by Andrew Strauss then took the controversial decision to omit James Anderson and Stuart Broad – England’s two most-successful Test bowlers – from the touring party to take on West Indies.

England have won just once in the Caribbean since 1968, and were beaten 2-1 on their previous visit in 2018-19. They will attempt to buck the trend this time around while fielding a new opening partnership, several changes to the middle order, and an untried bowling attack in which Chris Woakes and Craig Overton – in the absence of the injured Ollie Robinson – will share the new ball for the first time.

“I think it’s an opportunity for all of us to prove a point,” Root said. “We know that historically it’s not an easy place for England to come and play, winning once in 50-odd years – but that’s a great opportunity for the group. To come away from here winning would be a huge achievement, so it’s something that we’re very much looking forward to. It’s a big challenge for us but something that we’re very excited about.”

Despite suggestions that leaving Anderson and Broad at home, while hoping the likes of Woakes and Mark Wood could step up in their absence, bore the hallmarks of using the tour as a means of player development, Root insisted he was focused on winning the series. England are currently bottom of the World Test Championship table, with 10 points from ten games and a win percentage of 9.25%.

“You don’t come into a Test series not wanting to win,” he said. “I think along with that we have the opportunity to learn more about this team, and more about the players within it. So that’s a side note, it would be a great advantage to come out of this tour as well as that, but we’re very much committed to winning this series.”

On the much-vaunted “red-ball reset”, Root said that he had been happy with the signs from England’s sole warm-up game in Antigua last week, where they amassed 466 for 6 declared and then worked their way through the CWI President’s XI with the ball – albeit the only seamer to take a first-innings wicket, Robinson, is now out of contention for the first Test.

“So far the most encouraging thing is we’ve had some very good, in-depth conversations as a team about how we collectively want to take things forward, and gained a lot of clarity on that,” Root said. “One thing that we’ve tried to do is make sure everyone is fully aware of what their individual roles are within the team, and how they are going to affect the game and help us win. That will give us a better understanding, give people clarity and what’s needed to help this team moving forward.

“Within those conversations we’ve spoken very honestly, we’ve addressed things that needed to improve and so far we’ve put that into practice, in the limited chances that we’ve had. It will come under pressure and stress more now with the Test matches starting, but it’s been a very good start and that’s all you can judge it on. We’re really pleased with how things have gone till now and looking forward to seeing that hopefully progress further throughout the games.”

With Woakes set to take the new ball alongside Overton, Root described it as “an opportunity for the guys to really grab that and show what they’re capable of in slightly different roles”. He also suggested that England had yet to decide on their final XI, having announced a 12-man squad on Sunday, although indications from the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium were that a frontline spinner would be needed on a bare pitch.

“I think it’s really important that we look forward to this series with excitement, and those guys take that opportunity. It’s really important that when opportunities come around in Test cricket you really grab them and I’m fully confident that those guys are in a really good place to go out and do that. I thought the four-day game was a really positive step forward, our attitude towards it was excellent, the energy and buzz around the field, and the way guys improved throughout the whole game was really good. I think we made the most of what was a very docile wicket to be ready for this series. We know we’re going to be judged on how we perform in these three games but we’ve given ourselves the best chance in the opportunities we’ve had to prepare.

“We put the 12 out last night, I think it’s important that we weigh everything up and see how the wicket changes. It changed throughout practice yesterday. The amount of water that was on it at the start, how tacky it was. It will be interesting to look at it today and see how things change again and we’ll make a decision off the back of that.”

Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick

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