Ben Stokes will captain England for the first time in next week’s opening Test against the West Indies, taking over from regular skipper Joe Root as he takes time out for the birth of his second child.
Tuesday, 30th June 2020, 11: 18 pm
Root’s wife Carrie is due to give birth later this week and, with the strict protocols in place to ensure the series takes place in a ‘bio-secure’ environment, he will need to be isolated from the group for at least a week on his return from hospital.
That means the rubberstamping of Stokes’s temporary promotion at the Ageas Bowl next week, having never before taken the reins in his professional career.
The team’s star all-rounder will not have to wait long for a chance to hone his skills, heading up one of the sides in a three-day internal squad match starting in Southampton on Wednesday.
With Root heading north to join his family in Sheffield, Jos Buttler will captain the other in a game that sees 27 of the country’s best red-ball players go head to head. Buttler will also serve as Stokes’s vice-captain in the first Test, reprising his long-term role under Eoin Morgan in the limited-overs side and one he has previously performed in support of Root.
Head coach Chris Silverwood has no qualms about his credentials, despite his own admission that he last led a team as a teenager in the Durham academy.
“I think he’ll do a great job. He is a talisman, he leads from the front anyway,” said Silverwood.
“It will be interesting to see what he does because obviously it is his first time captaining England.
“We know he has got an aggressive nature but equally there is a good cricket brain in there as well.
“I think he will be quite vocal about what moves he is making when he is out there and I’m looking forward to working with him from a coaching point of view.
“He’s been Rooty’s right-hand man for a while now. I know Rooty does turn to him a lot and he’s been involved in a lot of talks we have behind the scenes. He’s in a great place to pick up the reins.”
Stokes has asked for – and been granted – a voice in the final team selection, though the bulk of the team’s established pecking order should remain intact.
Among the positions that are still to be tussled over during a rare ‘England versus England’ clash – namely Root’s replacement at number four, the first-choice spinner and which fast bowlers make the XI.
The likeliest top-order options are split equally between the two sides, Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley on one, with Rory Burns and Joe Denly in the other, while Dan Lawrence and Jonny Bairstow are each pencilled in to Root’s usual spot.
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