Ben Stokes said he was “proud” to be in a position where he might replace Joe Root as England skipper against the West Indies, even though he has not captained a side since he was a teenager. Vice-captain Stokes could find himself leading out the team for next week’s first Test at Southampton — or later in the three-match series — should Root be absent attending the birth of his second child. But the powerful all-rounder said he would accept the “huge honour” if it came his way. “Even if it’s only the once you can still say ‘yeah, I’ve captained England’,” he told a conference call on Monday.
Stokes was restored to his position as Test vice-captain in July 2019, nearly a year after being found not guilty of affray following an incident outside a nightclub.
“After that happened it was ‘right, what am I going to do from this point forward?,” Stokes told Sky in a separate interview as he recalled the incident. “How am I going to carry and conduct myself?’
“I’m quite proud to say I’m in this situation through hard work and determination. I wanted to get better and it’s been no fluke.”
But Stokes, who last led a cricket team aged 16 for Durham Academy, insisted captaincy had never been on his list of priorities.
“I’ve never set a goal to want to be a captain,” explained the 29-year-old.
“Alastair Cook was always destined to be England captain after Andrew Strauss. Joe Root was always destined to be captain after Alastair Cook.
“If I’m being honest, I’m not one of those that people would necessarily associate (as) the next England captain.”
‘Nine slips and a gully’
With Stokes already England’s star all-rounder, pundits including former captain Kevin Pietersen have said he does not need the extra responsibility of captaincy as well.
But Stokes, who jokingly said he would have “nine slips and a gully” as captain, insisted leadership would not dull his attacking approach.
Last year he played a key role in England’s World Cup triumph before scoring a stunning century at Headingley to win an astounding Test victory over Australia.
“Even if I am in charge that’s not going to change the way that I go about things, in terms of how I want to influence the game, which is try to make a positive effect with the ball or bat in my hand,” he said.
One problem for Stokes, as fellow pace-bowling all-rounders Ian Botham and Andrew Flintoff discovered when they were England captain, could be deciding on when to bowl himself.
“It depends if it is a flat wicket or not. If it is flat I will throw the ball to Jofra (Archer), Jimmy (Anderson) and Broady (Stuart Broad) and say ‘here you go’,” he joked.
“I guess I will have to be a bit more mindful if I am the one making that decision.”
England will select a side from a 30-man squad currently training at a bio-secure Southampton, with a three-day intra-squad match — their lone warm-up fixture — starting on Wednesday.
National selector Ed Smith and his panel will pick the team but England captains, however, traditionally have an influence upon the final XI and Stokes admitted: “I might not have as many friends after this Test match.”
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