Perth - Joe Root's first Ashes tour as England cricket
captain has been more eventful than he expected, just not in the way he had
"I knew it would be challenging, and I knew there would
be stuff around the cricket, but not to this extent," Root said of the
off-field issues that have followed his squad around Australia. "I'm fed
up of talking about stuff that's not cricket. I don't know how I've still got
all my hair ... I can completely see how captaincy can take its toll."
England trails the five-Test series 2-0 after losses in
Brisbane and Adelaide. Australia can clinch the series with a win at the WACA
ground in a match that will also mark England opener Alastair Cook's 150th
Only one team in Ashes history has rallied from 2-0 down to
win the series: Don Bradman's Australia in 1936-37 at home.
Root has faced more questions about the team's conduct and
curfew than its cricket. Ben Stokes' involvement in an incident outside a bar
in England in September has resulted in the all-rounder being suspended from
England duties while police determine whether charges will be laid.
Recent alcohol-fuelled incidents involving wicketkeeper
Jonny Bairstow and Ben Duckett, who is traveling with England's second-tier
squad, have only added to the focus on off-field issues.
The latest episode, in which Duckett poured a drink on the
head of veteran pace bowler Jimmy Anderson, came on a night when team officials
had relaxed a midnight curfew.
"I feel like I've learned a large amount." Root
said. "The lads have to wake up and smarten up. It's been frustrating ...
very frustrating. Guys have made silly mistakes that of course are going to get
blown out of proportion."
Root, who took over the captaincy in July and led England in
seven tests against South Africa and the West Indies at home, is desperate to
avoid a repeat of the series sweep on the last tour to Australia in 2013-14 and
is urging his team-mates to lift "for one of the biggest games of our
lives" in the third Test.
He'll be looking for support from Cook, already England's
most-capped test player, who has no plans to retire just yet.
"Do I have a desire to carry on? Absolutely," the
32-year-old lefthander said this week. "I wouldn't be going to do extra
gym sessions and extra batting behind closed doors if I wasn't."
Cook, who was England captain in 59 Tests until December
last year, has been below form so far on the Ashes tour. In Brisbane he made
nine runs and in Adelaide 37 and 16.
Another player in a form slump is Australian batsman Peter
Handscomb, who is facing being axed for the third Test. Local media have
suggested selectors will replace Handscomb with tall Western Australia
all-rounder Mitch Marsh.
On Wednesday, Australia captain Steve Smith said the home
side will wait until Thursday morning, before the toss, to finalize the
"We haven't picked the team yet," Smith said.
"It'll be unlucky if he (Handscomb) misses out. If we do go down that
route it's purely for the reason we think we need an extra bowler, nothing to
do with anybody's batting."
Handscomb has scored 14, 36 and 12 in his three innings, and
commentators have criticized the awkwardness of his batting technique.
Bairstow, who was Handscomb's former team-mate at English
county Yorkshire, thinks the Australian should be given another chance.
"Everyone's been through difficult times, whether that
be with the bat or anything," Bairstow said. "It won't be the first
time someone is going through a bit of a lean patch. You're also there to win a
game of cricket ... (but) there's a mutual respect with it."