England captain Root 'grateful' to survive Ashes cull
England captain Joe Root said Wednesday he was thankful to still hold his post after a crushing Ashes series loss as he insisted a revamped team could bounce back in the West Indies.
A humiliating 4-0 reverse in Australia saw England director of cricket Ashley Giles, head coach Chris Silverwood and batting coach Graham Thorpe all sacked.
Root, however, was spared the fate of the three former England cricketers, and allowed to continue as captain, although many observers suggested that was due to a lack of alternatives if officials wanted to avoid burdening all-rounder Ben Stokes with the job.
The Yorkshire batsman was spared the axe by acting director of cricket Andrew Strauss, with Root well aware the decision could have gone the other way as he commiserated with the dismissed backroom staff.
"It's never nice when you see people that you've worked closely with for a long period of time lose their jobs," said Root ahead of a new-look squad's departure for the Caribbean on Thursday.
"They've given a huge amount to English cricket. I really hope they find something that fulfils them.
"Clearly it was a disappointing tour and we massively underperformed. Off the back of it we have to use this opportunity for a fresh start. I'm very grateful that I've got the opportunity to do that as captain."
England, bidding to end a woeful run of just one win in 14 Tests, will travel to the West Indies without their two all-time leading bowlers in the format after the new-ball duo of James Anderson and Stuart Broad were both controversially dropped.
Root's men, who include the uncapped trio of pace bowlers Saqib Mahmood and Matt Fisher as well as leg-spinner Matt Parkinson, are bidding to become just the second England team since 1968 to win a Test series in the West Indies.
- 'Bridge that gap' -
England are currently bottom of the World Test Championship table but Root said their fortunes could change rapidly if they got off to a good start in a three-match series that begins in Antigua on March 8.
"Ultimately sometimes it doesn't take a long time to change things," said Root. "It can happen quite quickly and that's what we're looking for.
"We have to be honest about where we are, we're not currently one of the best teams in the world but that can be our ambition and there's definitely quick strides we can make in getting closer to that and bridge that gap."
England did not once manage a total of 300 in the five-match Ashes series and their top-order problems have been the underlying cause of many a recent Test defeat at both home and abroad.
Rather than come in with England already two wickets down cheaply, Root has decided to move up a place in the batting order from number four to number three.
It has not previously been a happy berth for Root. In 30 Tests at first-wicket down he averages 38.66, compared to an excellent 51.27 in 62 matches at four.
The 31-year-old, however, has been emboldened by a 2021 tally of 1,708 Test runs -- an England record return in a calendar year and the third most by anyone behind Pakistan's Mohammad Yousuf and West Indies' Viv Richards -- to move back up the order.
"It's the first time it's sat comfortably with me," said Root. "I am coming into it having had a really strong year with a lot more clarity about how I'm going to score my runs... I'm a lot more experienced. I feel it's the right fit for this team."