London: England all-rounder Ben Stokes has said that while there will be “a lot of speculation” that he might be given the responsibility to lead the Test side after Joe Root stepped down as skipper, the decision will be taken by the England and Wales Cricket Board’s (ECB) new managing director Rob Key.
Stokes has been heavily linked with the vacant England Test captain’s position and has spoken about the role as well following his friend and teammate’s decision to step down. The 30-year-old all-rounder thinks that it will be a “huge honour” if he gets the opportunity to captain the side.
“I know there will be lots of speculation around who will take over, and clearly as vice-captain and someone who has stood in on a few occasions my name will be strongly talked about,” Stokes wrote in his column for Daily Mirror.
“But all I will say is that it is a huge honour to captain England and whoever does it will get to enjoy that responsibility of trying to take the team forward. The decision will be down to Rob Key as the new managing director of men’s cricket and I’m sure we’ll talk soon enough, as he will with other players and support staff.
“It is an exciting time for us all, at the start of a new era for the Test team. I’m back in the nets now and training ahead of my first game for Durham in the next couple of weeks and I can’t wait,” added Stokes.
Recalling the day when Root broke the news to him that he was stepping down as England Test skipper, Stokes said he was caught a bit off-guard. Root’s captaincy over the last year-and-a-half had come in for criticism after his side could manage just one Test win in 17 outings, with the latest disappointment coming in the form of the 0-4 Ashes thrashing followed by a 0-1 loss in the away Test series in the Caribbean.
“When my phone started ringing and I saw Joe’s (Root) name flash up, I didn’t know what to expect. But when he said: ‘Mate, I just wanted to let you know before it becomes official…’ I knew what was coming.
“As you can imagine it was quite an emotional conversation, but it wasn’t a long chat, there will be time for that in the future. This was an emotional few minutes and in return there was nothing but love, respect and support from me because that is what Joe Root has shown me throughout his time as England Test captain.
“When I took my break from the game in 2021 (due to mental health issues and finger injury), Joe was brilliant. The cricket came second; his concern was for my well-being. And going back a few years now to the Bristol incident, that was where my captain really went to bat for me. That is where my total loyalty towards Joe comes from, and he will always have it because he has never been anything but a good man towards me and the rest of his players.”
Root captained England more than any other player in Test history, winning more matches as captain (27) but also losing more (26) than any of his predecessors. And having stepped down as skipper, Root can now look to continue his stunning form with the bat, form that saw him score more runs in 2021 than any English men’s batter had in any previous calendar year, earning him the ICC Men’s Test Cricketer of the Year award.
“Now that he has stood down, I fully expect him to continue his brilliance with a bat in hand and show why he is the greatest batsman we’ve ever produced,” Stokes said. “We are lucky to have him and he’s still got so much to offer English cricket.”