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Ben Stokes: from the ‘Bristol incident’ to England’s Test captaincy

Durham all-rounder has been confirmed as Joe Root’s replacement

Ben Stokes said it was a “real privilege” to be named the 81st captain of the England men’s Test cricket team. The Durham all-rounder replaces Joe Root, who resigned from the role after five years in charge. 

In a press conference on Thursday, Stokes was confirmed as Test skipper by Rob Key, England’s new managing director of men’s cricket. For his first major decision in the role, Key had “no hesitation” in offering the captaincy to a player who “epitomises the mentality and approach” needed to take the team forwards. “He thoroughly deserves the opportunity.”

Former captain Root was praised by Stokes for being a “massive part” of his development as “a leader” in the dressing room. Stokes said Root will continue to be a “key ally for me in this role”. In a tweet, ex-skipper Root congratulated his mate and said he would be right with him “every step of the way”. 

‘A rare determination to succeed’

The appointment sees the 30-year-old assume “one of the most prestigious positions in British sport”, said Rory Dollard in The Independent. He has no doubt had some memorable moments – the 2019 World Cup win and his century against Australia in the Ashes “miracle at Headingley” – to name just two. But there’s also been some moments “that he will look back on less fondly”, such as the “Bristol incident” in 2017 where he was arrested following a “fracas” outside of a nightclub and was “ultimately found not guilty on a charge of affray 11 months later”. 

Last July Stokes took a sustained break from the international game to rest an injured finger and protect his mental wellbeing. In a column for The Mirror, he wrote that he was in a “real dark place” and how he struggled with “bubble life” and events off the field. “I don’t want anyone to feel the way I did, because I wasn’t in a good place and I’m not afraid to admit it.”

Stokes’s issues with mental health make this appointment “a huge gamble”, said Martin Samuel in the Daily Mail. He was the outstanding candidate, but this will put “more pressure on a man whose body and mind were creaking”. It remains an enormous gamble, not just for Stokes, who already “carries the weight of being the team’s talismanic match-winner”, but for the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB), too.

Since the incident in Bristol that “nearly destroyed his career”, Stokes has certainly “come a long way”, said Steve James in The Times. Overcoming “so many difficulties” has shown that the new England captain “possesses a rare determination to succeed”. 

Stokes bowling in a training session for England

Stokes bowling in a training session for England

Getty Images

‘When he speaks, players listen’

Stokes was “No 1 choice in a field of one”, Samuel added in the Mail. He is a “quite brilliant player” and “if this were a general election”, he would be “returned with a landslide and chaired into parliament”.

There was “no need to overthink” the appointment, said former England captain Mike Atherton in The Times. Stokes is a “proven Test match cricketer” and has shown himself to be “an inspirational player” time and again. “He has the respect of the dressing room, as a player, leader and man. When he speaks, players listen; when he motions, they follow.”

Nasser Hussain, another former captain, agrees that Stokes is the “best option” and someone who “puts himself secondary” to England winning. Speaking on Sky Sports, Hussain added that England have a “winner in charge of our Test team” and “he will be doing everything to make sure we win every Test match we play”.

His great all-round predecessors – Ian Botham and Andrew Flintoff – may have both failed as captains, said Tim Wigmore in The Telegraph. But there are reasons to believe Stokes “can thrive in both roles”. 

Stokes starred as England won the World Cup in 2019

Stokes starred as England won the World Cup in 2019

Getty Images

New coach for Lord’s first Test? 

Following the series defeats in Australia and the West Indies, there has been a personnel overhaul within the England set-up. With Key and Stokes now appointed in their roles, the next task for the ECB is to recruit separate head coaches for the men’s Test and white-ball teams. Key said he is “optimistic” that a new coach will be in place for the first Test on 2 June against New Zealand at Lord’s.

Stokes has scored 5,061 runs and taken 174 wickets in 79 Tests for England, the BBC reported. He had been vice-captain across two spells since 2017 and previously captained the side in the first Test defeat by West Indies in 2020. 

One of his first demands as England’s Test skipper is for James Anderson and Stuart Broad to return to the squad, said Ali Martin in The Guardian. “Subject to form and fitness”, the veteran bowlers will be “back in the fold” for the summer schedule.

England men’s 2022 summer fixtures 

England vs. New Zealand Test series
  • 2-6 June: Lord’s 
  • 10-14 June: Trent Bridge 
  • 23-27 June: Emerald Headingley 
England vs. India Test match
  • 1-5 July: Edgbaston
England vs. India IT20 Series
  • 7 July: Ageas Bowl 
  • 9 July: Edgbaston 
  • 10 July: Trent Bridge
England vs. India one-day series 
  • 12 July: Kia Oval 
  • 14 July: Lord’s
  • 17 July: Emirates Old Trafford 
England vs. South Africa one-day series
  • 19 July: Riverside 
  • 22 July: Emirates Old Trafford 
  • 24 July: Headingley 
England vs. South Africa international Twenty20 series
  • 27 July: The Seat Unique Stadium, Bristol
  • 28 July: Sophia Gardens 
  • 31 July: Ageas Bowl 
England vs. South Africa Test series
  • 17-21 August: Lord’s 
  • 25-29 August: Emirates Old Trafford 
  • 8-12 September: Kia Oval 

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