JOE ROOT faces a huge decision over the next 48 hours which could have a profound impact on England’s batting in The Ashes.
Does Root stay at his favoured No 4 spot or move up to three in the order?
Head coach Trevor Bayliss has made it clear for several years he believes Root should bat at No 3.
It will be a significant talking point in the dressing room and, with the First Test against Australia starting at Edgbaston on Thursday, they must reach a decision by Wednesday at the latest.
The dilemma has arisen because of England’s struggles at the top order since the Andrew Strauss-Alastair Cook opening combination ended in 2012.
First, it was a case of finding a partner for Cook. Now England must also find a replacement for their all-time record scorer.
Bayliss’ case is that Root, as England’s best batsman, should go in at first-wicket down in order to impose himself on his team’s innings.
He thinks Root can apply pressure on the bowlers with his skill and scoring possibilities rather than wait until England are, say, 20-2 and already on the back foot.
Bayliss also believes it will send a message if the captain takes the bold and positive decision to promote himself up the order.
What’s more, that would allow Jason Roy to drop from opener to No 4, where Bayliss feels the Surrey star’s powerful strokeplay might be better suited because he would not be facing a brand new ball.
Rory Burns and Joe Denly would be the openers in the coach’s ideal line-up.
That all might make sense but Root has a counter-argument.
Root’s all 4 it
He feels after captaining England in the field with all the bowling changes, decisions and pressure that brings, he wants more time to catch his breath and clear his mind.
Root thinks he performs better when he has a few extra minutes to compose himself.
If he is due to go in at No 3, he will need to put on his pads and start thinking about his innings straightaway.
Also, the Yorkshireman queries why should he shift? Having the team’s best player in his favoured slot surely makes sense.
England’s top-order batting has enough problems without the captain and star man upset with his role in the line-up.
Root was persuaded to bat at three in 2016 and stayed there for a year or so. He averages 40 in that position, compared to 48 at No 4 and 71 at No 5.
He bats at three in the one-day team but, of course, is not captain.
MOST READ IN SPORT
Bayliss said: “Joe knows my thoughts on this. My role is to offer the captain as many options as possible and we’ll have a chat about it. But in the end it will be Joe’s decision.”
My view has always been that Root should bat where he wants. If he thinks he needs more time to prepare for his innings, give it to him.
He is captain, the best player and his wishes must be respected and followed.