Chris Silverwood to pay price for Ashes failure while Joe Root backed
Chris Silverwood looks set to pay the price for England’s Ashes debacle and, to continue a chastening tour, now faces 10 days of isolation following the emergence of a seventh positive Covid case in the camp.
The head coach, who will now miss the fourth Test in Sydney after one of his family members contracted the virus, is unlikely to remain in his job, with Joe Root, the captain, given contrastingly stronger support behind the scenes at 3-0 down.
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Tom Harrison, the ECB chief executive, has already met with Root in Melbourne and is understood to have backed his continuation despite chalking up a record nine defeats in 2021. Root is also said to have indicated his desire to lead the rebuild.
Significant caveats remain, not least given the potential for further damage to follow during the final two Tests of the series. Ashley Giles, the director of men’s cricket, arrives in Sydney next week and along with Harrison will undertake a review of the tour.
Silverwood will be one of four coaches absent in Sydney, with Jon Lewis (seam bowling), Jeetan Patel (spin) and Darren Veness (fitness) having all tested positive in the past week, along with four family members on tour. Graham Thorpe, assistant coach, will take charge provided he clears the fourth round of testing on Thursday.
Covid aside, it may well be that a number of coaching roles hinge on the feedback Root and others give to Harrison and Giles. Although neither he nor Silverwood have covered themselves in glory over strategy, support for Root in part reflects a lack of credible captaincy alternatives who could be viewed as likely first-team regulars.
Ben Stokes, Root’s vice-captain, is arguably the only other player who could claim to be in this position but there would be concerns about overburdening an all-rounder who has struggled for form during the series. It is also his first outing since taking a four-month break during the summer to address a finger injury and his mental health.
The batting unit would usually present candidates but has disintegrated over the past 12 months. After Root’s 1,708 Test runs in 2021, the next highest run-scorer with 530 is Rory Burns who, though a title-winning captain at Surrey, was recently dropped for a second time. To sum things up, extras sit in third place with 412 runs.
From the team that lost inside three days at the MCG, only the incumbent top three of Zak Crawley, Haseeb Hameed and Dawid Malan took up at an optional net session on Wednesday, along with the players who missed out on selection for the third Test.
Chris Woakes, dropped after the first two, was asked whether the team would endorse Root’s continuation and replied: “Absolutely. It’s clear that the captaincy isn’t having an effect on his batting, which a lot of the time with captains can be the case.
“The fact that he’s scoring the runs he is is great for the team. It would be great if we could help him out with that and build some partnerships with him, and score a few more runs around him. But Joe is a great cricketer, he’s got a great cricket brain.
“I think his record as England captain [59 Tests, 27 wins, 24 defeats, eight draws] is pretty good, as far as I’m aware. I definitely feel like Joe will continue.”
Asked if Silverwood has the same backing, Woakes replied: “Who am I to talk about people’s futures other than my own, to be brutally honest? We have two more games and we want to show a lot of character, a lot of fight.”
Internal support for Root should be couched by the fact that a number of Test careers are potentially on the line in the coming weeks, as well as uncertainty over Harrison’s own continuation at the ECB once the governing body’s £2.1m long-term incentive plan for its executive team matures at the end of the financial year.
There is also no permanent ECB chair at present, with Barry O’Brien only interim, and any new leadership team will likely have their own ideas about roles such as those held by Giles – the director of men’s cricket technically hires the head coach and captain – and the performance director, Mo Bobat, who oversees long-term strategy.
The latter was in charge of the Lions team that played a tour match against Australia A during the first Test in Brisbane yet selected only off-spinner Dom Bess from the unused players in the senior Test squad. Crawley, who made scores of 12 and five on his return to the Test team in Melbourne, might have benefited from playing.