LONDON: Root, on his first overseas trip as England’s Test captain, has been peppered with more questions about the team’s conduct and curfew than their cricket.
The tone was set by Ben Stokes’s brawl outside a Bristol bar in September that left another man with a fractured eye socket.
Recent alcohol-fuelled antics involving Jonny Bairstow and Ben Duckett have entrenched a reputation that England have a booze problem.
The latest episode, in which England A batsman Duckett poured a drink on the head of Test spearhead Jimmy Anderson, has prompted coach Trevor Bayliss to all but declare publicly that careers are at stake.
It has also overshadowed Root’s attempt to artificially create confidence as the tourists seek to stay alive in the five-Test series by avoiding defeat in the WACA Test that starts tomorrow.
“I knew it would be challenging, and I knew there would be stuff around the cricket – but not to this extent,” Root told reporters.
“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.
“I feel like I’ve learned a large amount.”
Root added “the lads have to wake up and smarten up”.
“It’s been frustrating… very frustrating,” he said.
“Guys have made silly mistakes that of course are going to get blown out of proportion.”
Root’s team trail 2-0 in the series, having been competitive in patches but ultimately fallen to heavy defeats in Brisbane and Adelaide.
Only one team in Ashes history has fought back from such a position and won the series: Don Bradman’s Australia in 1936/37 on home soil.
Anderson, who is set to become one half of the most prolific new-ball pairing in Test history when he lines up alongside Stuart Broad in Perth, found his mojo under lights during Australia’s second innings of the day-night Test.
But after grabbing his maiden five-wicket haul in Australia, 35-year-old Anderson was among England’s Test players enjoying a night out after director of cricket Andrew Strauss agreed to a temporary relaxing of the squad’s curfew.
Anderson, acting vice-captain in the absence of Stokes, had a drink poured on him after returning to the same bar where Bairstow headbutted Cameron Bancroft during England’s first night on tour.
“Yes, maybe a little bit,” Root said, when asked if England’s all-time leading wicket-taker should perhaps be setting a better example.
“His focus now has to be about leading that bowling attack and doing the right things on the field.”