Sheffield’s Joe Root moved one step closer to becoming the captain of England earlier today when he was named the new vice-skipper of the Test side.
The 24-year-old was handed the honour on Tuesday, at new director of English cricket Andrew Strauss’ first press conference.
The decision was largely overshadowed by Strauss’ revelation that Kevin Pietersen will not be picked again for England, this summer at least, despite his unbeaten 355 for Surrey against Leicestershire.
But it is seen by many as just the latest step in Root’s remarkable ascendancy, since making his England Test debut in India two and a half years ago. The Sheffield Collegiate batsman has established himself as a fixture in the England middle-order, and averages exactly 55 from his 25 Test matches to date.
“It’s the right time for Joe to take more of a leadership position,” said Strauss.
“He’s got outstanding leadership capabilities and we need him to start thinking more as a captain.
“That is in no way a reflection of the job that [former vice-captain] Ian Bell has done, he’s been excellent in that role by all accounts, but it’s time for Joe to step up.”
Root will take up his position ahead of England’s two-Test series against New Zealand this month, ahead of the summer’s Ashes series.
But one England legend believes he should have replaced skipper Alastair Cook, instead of becoming his deputy.
“Cook is a fine Test batsman but he is not a captain,” said Ian Botham.
“I would give the job to Root and tell him to mould an attacking team with an attacking coach in [Yorkshire’s] Jason Gillespie.”
Meanwhile, Strauss cited a “massive trust issue” between himself and record-breaking batsman Pietersen, who was sacked by the ECB after last year’s whitewash Ashes defeat in Australia.
Pietersen had hoped for a recall after apparent pre-season encouragement from new ECB chairman Colin Graves - but even after his maiden triple-century for Surrey on Monday, he was informed within hours by Strauss that there is no imminent prospect of him playing for England again.
Strauss stopped short of announcing 34-year-old Pietersen will never add to his 104 Test caps for his adopted country, but made clear that the working relationship between the two of them is central to the decision that has been made.
As Pietersen’s Test captain in 2012, Strauss discovered the record-breaking batsman had sent “provocative” texts about him to opposition players from their native South Africa.
Strauss told Sky Sports News: “The first thing to say is now’s the time for some really honest and open conversation about Kevin Pietersen.
“No one has ever doubted Kevin Pietersen’s ability as a player. He has been a phenomenal player for England over a long period of time.
“His record stacks up to anyone in England cricket, and he should be very proud of that.
“But over months and years, the trust between himself and the ECB has eroded.”