Stokes accepted the captaincy of England’s Test team last week, raising concerns that the burden of captaincy may take a toll on him as he is already too burdened with expectations.
Ian Botham and Andrew Flintoff, two of England’s greatest all-rounders in the past, had to struggle after taking charge of the Test side. The England team could not win even one of the 12 Tests played under Botham’s captaincy in 1980-81. The team won only two of the 11 Tests they played under Flintoff in 2006–07, while losing the Ashes series 0–5 in Australia.
Stokes, the first all-rounder to lead the side after Flintoff, however, dismissed the comparison.
“I’ve had to live with the labels of Andrew Flintoff and Sir Ian Botham since I was 18,” Stokes, who appeared before the media as England’s new Test captain on Tuesday, said. But I’ve always said that I never tried to be Andrew Flintoff or Sir Ian Botham. I am Ben Stokes.”
The question of physical and mental burden, however, is practical for Stokes.
Stokes, 30, was ruled out for most of the 2021 season due to mental health issues and his health. During this time he was also recovering from two finger operations.
Now the eyes of the media will be on him and his form and his decisions on the field as well as his conduct on and off the field will be constantly reviewed.
Stokes, however, said last year’s experience would help him.
“There is always a negative feeling about mental health but I took a break, talked to people and will continue to do so. I am in this role now and look at it in a positive way. What I went through in the last session and even before that, I have a lot of experience with what you may have to face in life. ,
Stokes said, “I have always felt that I am someone who can come and talk to me if senior or young players are upset about anything. I hope that continues.” Stokes was probably referring to an incident in 2017 when he, along with his England teammates, assaulted two men on the street after the match against the West Indies. However, he was found not guilty as during the trial he said that he did so in self-defence.
Due to this case, he was stripped of the vice-captaincy of the England team and he could not even go on the Ashes tour of Australia in 2017-18. He was later made the vice-captain again.
Stokes said that he is proud that he has overcome that difficult moment of life and now becomes the captain.
England have been able to win just one of their last 17 Tests and Stokes will have to focus more on this format. In such a situation, Stokes’ availability in ODIs and T20 matches could be affected.
Stokes said, “I know that I have to play a big role to get the Test team back on the winning track and for this I will put all my efforts and energy.”
Will this affect their availability for the Indian Premier League as well? Stokes said, “Test cricket is my top priority.”
James Anderson and Stuart Broad, two of England’s most successful bowlers, who were controversially dropped from the West Indies tour, will again be considered for selection under the Stokes-led side.
Stokes said, “The best chances of winning a Test match are when you pick your 11 best players and when fit, James Anderson and Stuart Broad will be available for selection because they are the two best bowlers in England.”
“It is foolish to never consider his name for selection. He is part of the best XI.
AP Sudhir Pant