LONDON: England unveiled Ben Stokes as their Test captain on Thursday, hoping for a swift turnaround under the talismanic all-rounder after a tame end to Joe Root’s five years in charge of the team earlier this month.
Root led England in a record 64 tests but his role became untenable after they managed one win in their last 17 tests, a run which included a 4-0 Ashes thrashing in Australia and a 1-0 series defeat in West Indies.
Stokes, who served as Root’s deputy, was the overwhelming favourite to take charge of the struggling team. The 30-year-old’s career is peppered with staggering performances with bat and ball, has been a loyal lieutenant to Root and made a point of praising his friend and predecessor in a short statement.
“I am honoured to be given the chance to lead the England Test team,” he said. “This is a real privilege and I’m excited about getting started this summer.
“I want to thank Joe for everything he has done for English cricket and for always being a great ambassador for the sport all across the world. He has been a massive part of my development as a leader in the dressing room and he will continue to be a key ally for me in this role.”
Root resigned after five years in charge following a 1-0 series loss in the Caribbean, which came hot on the heels of a humiliating 4-0 Ashes defeat in Australia.
New managing director of England men’s cricket Rob Key told Sky Sports that Stokes was the “obvious choice”.
“I just think the time is right for him,” Key said. “He’s been a leader in that dressing room for a long, long time. He’s been the one that people turned to a lot of the time.
“He’s a strong leader, he’s got a good cricketing brain. Everything he’s done has got him to this point.”
The former England batter added: “He’s got a hell of a lot of empathy as well…. All of those traits, as well as an outstanding cricket brain, make him the obvious choice.”
Stokes, who made his Test debut in 2013, has scored more than 5,000 Test runs and taken 174 wickets in 79 matches and is also one of the stars of England’s white-ball teams.
He has created his own personal highlights reel with his powerful batting, pace bowling and outstanding fielding, with 2019 a standout year.
First he won the man-of-the-match award for an unbeaten 84 in the 50-over World Cup final at Lord’s, where England triumphed against New Zealand.
Then the following month he produced an innings for the ages, smashing a match-winning 135 not out in England’s astounding one-wicket win over Australia at Headingley.
But the new skipper has also had setbacks during his golden career.
His cricket was put on pause following a fracas outside a nightclub in September 2017. That led to a charge of affray and although he was eventually found not guilty in court, he missed the 2017-18 Ashes.
Last year he took a break from the game to “prioritise his mental health”, returning for England’s ill-fated Ashes campaign.
England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) chief executive Tom Harrison was optimistic of a glorious “new era” under Stokes.
“He cares deeply and passionately about what it means to represent England and he will lead us into a new era with great pride,” Harrison said. “It’s an important summer for our test side and Ben will, I am sure, relish the challenge before him and his team.”
NEW ZEALAND CHALLENGE
Stokes’s first match as the permanent England skipper will come against New Zealand, the country of his birth, at the start of a three-Test series at Lord’s on June 2.
He previously captained the Test side in a four-wicket defeat by the West Indies in Southampton two years ago when Root was on paternity leave — his only first-class match in charge.
But he has long been regarded as a leading figure in the England dressing room.
He was praised for the way he led an inexperienced side in a 3-0 One-day International series win at home to Pakistan last year after a coronavirus outbreak ruled out the first-choice squad.
Key is still looking to appoint a permanent head coach, although he has said he will split the job into separate red and white-ball roles.
He added that Stokes wanted both James Anderson and Stuart Broad, England’s two all-time leading Test wicket-takers, who were both left out of the West Indies tour, to be considered for selection.
“I told them, ‘I can’t promise you’re going to play but you’re available’ and Ben Stokes has been very clear he wants Jimmy and Broady to come back in,” he said.