Joe Root admits England’s much-criticised rotation plan in India may continue for Ashes

England's players watch on as India are presented with the trophy - AP

England’s players watch on as India are presented with the trophy – AP

England captain Joe Root has admitted that the controversial rotation policy could continue into the Ashes series later in the year despite England succumbing to a crushing innings defeat in the fourth Test against India as they lost the series 3-1.

With England’s twin priorities this year being the Ashes in Australia and the Twenty20 World Cup, and the need to protect players from the strains of bubble life due to Covid-19, players are set to continue to be rotated. England’s attempts to win the series in India were hampered by six players missing some of the Test tour. Most notably, first-choice Test wicketkeeper Jos Buttler went home after the first Test in India, while Moeen Ali went home after the second Test. After performing well in Sri Lanka, Jonny Bairstow missed the first two Tests to return home and then made three ducks in four innings against India.

“It’s not an ideal, perfect scenario,” Root admitted. “As a captain you want all your players available for selection as often as possible and that’s not been the case on this tour.

“The rotation policy is there to look after the players. We’ve said all along that making sure that players are looked after and that their welfare and wellbeing is paramount. We’ve got to follow that through.”

The first Test of England’s Ashes tour is set to be played on December 8, as Telegraph Sport previously reported. International flights to Australia are not set to resume until October, and Cricket Australia is planning for England to undergo 14 days quarantine on arrival to satisfy the government’s Covid laws.

Root said that such requirements on the players could lead to England’s rotation policy being extended.

“If we are in a bubble environment in Australia then there will be an element of this that will carry over,” he said. “I do think it is important that we learn from this tour as a whole and try to make it better and improve on it moving forward.

“It would be silly for us to look at this and not try to make it better for next time and the next tour.”

Root said that rotating players was essential to prevent player burnout and ensure that players can perform at their best.

“Yes we might not get it right all the time to start with but we need to move forward and look for a better way and hopefully we find that better way quickly. It’s going to be important with the amount of cricket we’re playing, the number of guys who are multi-format, we look after everyone and guys aren’t burning out and losing out on the enjoyment factor.

“There’s so much cricket around. So it’s really important that whilst bubbles in particular are around that we continue to keep looking after the players and also we’ve got to get away from playing guys and running them into the ground until they fall over.”

England will be at full strength for their T20 series in India, which begins on Friday. Former England captain Michael Vaughan criticised how England had managed players this winter.

“Just a reminder that England will be at full strength for all the T20s and all players available for the whole IPL,” he said. “Why did England choose to rotate so much in Test cricket against the best in the world?”

After England’s third consecutive comprehensive defeat – they lost by an innings and 25 runs, after defeats by 317 runs and 10 wickets in the previous two Tests – Root admitted that England had erred in their team selection during the series. They selected only one specialist seamer, James Anderson, in Ahmedabad.

“The surface looked very similar to the previous game. We thought spin was going to play a massive factor and be the main asset. Actually it held together a lot better in the middle which meant there was a bit of extra bounce and seam. That was one of the unfortunate things, there were a couple of occasions where you could look back and say did we get selection right?”

To improve in Asian conditions, Root said that England needed to make reforms to the domestic game to increase the amount of spin bowling bowled, stressing the need for flatter pitches.

“I do think that there are areas of county cricket that can be improved – quite easily as well. They need to find ways of making games last four days, giving spinners the opportunity to bowl and to learn to bowl at different stages of the game: to hold the game in the first innings, if it’s not spinning and things are not in your favour, to give the seamers some respite, then be able to attack, and to really deal with that pressure of trying to bowl a side out.”

Root suggested that points for draws in the County Championship could be increased to encourage flatter wickets. “If draws are more appealing, because of the amount of points on offer, it might improve our situation slightly.”

The series victory means that India have qualified for the inaugural World Test Championship final, which they will contest against New Zealand in England in June. The venue has yet to be confirmed due to Covid-19, with Lord’s and the Ageas Bowl vying to host the game.

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