‘You’re only as good as your players’: Darren Gough defends Joe Root’s record

The Guardian
The Guardian
Darren Gough (second from right) with Ian Botham, Joe Root and Mark Nicholas at a golf tournament in St Andrews last year. Photograph: David Cannon/Getty Images

Darren Gough has defended Joe Root’s leadership after he stepped down after five years as England’s Test captain, insisting there was no one better who could have taken on the role.

Root announced his resignation on Friday morning, having come under increasing pressure after a 1-0 series defeat in West Indies followed England’s winter Ashes drubbing. However, Gough, interim managing director of cricket at Yorkshire where Root plays, said: “I think he’s done a good job. I really do. He leads from the front. He’s a strong personality. Everybody thinks he’s this relaxed, fun-loving guy, which he is. But he’s also a strong leader.

Related: Joe Root resigns as England Test cricket captain after torrid run

“You’re only as good as your players. You can be as good a captain as you want. Yes, you might be able to make a little 1% change, but you need the team. Individual players have to come to the party when you really want them. When your best players rock up, it makes such a difference.

“I’ve been in that dressing room environment in New Zealand [in November 2019]. He is hugely respected by every single player and coaching staff. And he was the perfect man for the job.”

Root led England in a record 64 Tests, winning 27 of them. The team’s recent precipitous loss of form, however, chipped away at his authority. “That one win in 17 [games] is the one that goes against him,” continued Gough, during Yorkshire’s Championship game against Gloucestershire at Bristol. “When you think about it, would you say he’s always had the best players available to him in that last 17 Test matches? I would say not.

“He’s had a lot of criticism. I think that’s what probably hurt him, it’s come from a lot of guys who played the game and captained England as well – some of his closest mates.

“I was surprised by the criticism. I think you have to look deeper than that. With everything that has been going on in English cricket, I don’t think you can blame the captain. Unfortunately, we’re always looking for someone to blame.”

There will be a warm welcome waiting for Root at Headingley, as Yorkshire themselves embark on a rebrand after a winter of revolution and discontent surrounding the Azeem Rafiq racism scandal . Root, who speaks with great affection about county cricket, has made 3,410 first-class runs for the club, averaging 44.28, with eight hundreds.

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“Whatever we get Joe Root for is a bonus,” said Gough. “He loves playing for Yorkshire. We’ve kept in touch all winter. To get a player of his experience and brilliance, I can’t wait to have him back. And I’m sure he just wants to get back playing now that he’s got this out of the way.

“He will continue to be a great ambassador. He has a huge love for this cricket club. He’s been on messages and wished everybody luck before this game. That’s the sort of character he is. He loves playing for Yorkshire and England.”

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