A great stand-in but I worry over Ben Stokes as the long-term captain

NASSER HUSSAIN: He’s the perfect stand-in skipper for England… but I worry over Ben Stokes as a long-term pick for the job

  • Ben Stokes will replace Joe Root as the captain in the first Test with West Indies 
  • Root will not have to worry about handing his job over to Stokes given his loyalty
  • Stokes will certainly bring passion and energy to the captaincy over England
  • Though, he may not be able to handle the pressure of playing and captaining 

There is no one better than Ben Stokes to step in for Joe Root as a short-term captain when England take on West Indies in the first Test next week.

Stokes is extremely loyal, so Root would not have to worry he would be handing his job over to someone with any kind of ulterior motive of wanting to take it for good.

When Joe returns Ben will happily hand the captaincy back to him.

 Ben Stokes is set to replace the absent Joe Root as captain in the first Test with West Indies

And we have seen, particularly last summer, what a fantastic cricket brain Stokes has and how smart and sharp he is when thinking through any situation on the field.

I only had to sit in on Sky’s watchalong of the last day of the Headingley Ashes Test last summer and listen to Ben talk to know he is invariably spot on in his tactical assessments.

He will certainly bring passion and energy to the captaincy. Stokes is the type of character that everyone in that England squad will be desperate to play for and win for.

 Root will not have to worry about handing his job over to Stokes as he will happily hand it back

And he is a winner. It’s not just his skill and tactical acumen. Stokes’ job will not be done unless his team win the Test. You can listen to people saying, ‘I don’t care how many runs I score or wickets I take as long as we win’ and think of it as a cliché. Stokes really does mean it.

But the long term is a different matter. With the full-time England captaincy comes expectancy, selection, ups and downs and a lot of things that can weigh you down. So I would be concerned about giving it to Ben permanently at some point down the line.

I don’t think there’s anyone in world cricket who does as much as Ben Stokes. Maybe Virat Kohli but he doesn’t bowl. Stokes’ plate is full and when he does something there are never any half measures. Stokes has to do everything at a hundred miles per hour — there is no other way for him.

So his workload is in the red zone without the mental strain of captaincy and history tells you if you give the job to your best all-rounder, the graph will go down the longer he does the job. The last thing England need is for Stokes to be affected by high office. Some players do not need an armband to lead and Stokes is one of them.

 Stokes will certainly bring passion and energy to the captaincy during his short-term position

 Though he may struggle to handle the pressure of both playing for and captaining his country

But never say never. There are cricketers in the past who have surprised people when they take on the captaincy. If you give Ben a challenge, he grabs it with both hands and with that drive of his he could be a magnificent captain.

No one knows how any player will handle the demands of leadership until they actually do it and Ben has pulled off some near-impossible tasks in the recent past, so we should never put anything past him.

Selection is an interesting one and Stokes will want his say. But one thing you do know is if Ben has to tap any player on the shoulder the day before the first Test and say, ‘Sorry, you are not playing,’ they will accept it. He has done so much for England that nobody will question him. They all have total respect for him.




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