LONDON: Former England captains say talismanic all-rounder Ben Stokes should fill the vacuum left after Joe Root resigned as Test skipper.
The 30-year-old Stokes — presently nursing a knee injury — can take the England job with an easy conscience as he had said he would turn it down if his good friend Root was sacked.
Root, though, walked of his own accord announcing his resignation on Friday.
It followed a dire past year of results reaching its nadir with a 4-0 thrashing by Australia in the Ashes series and then a 1-0 loss to the West Indies.
Root, appointed as Alastair Cook’s successor in 2017, holds the record for the most matches (64) and most wins (27) as England skipper, but he also has the unwanted record for most defeats (26).
Michael Vaughan — who skippered England in 51 Tests and unlike Root won an Ashes series — told the BBC Stokes is the natural choice.
Veteran fast bowler Stuart Broad, England’s second-highest wicket-taker in Tests, has also been mentioned as a potential captain but his place in the side is seen as being less secure — he was controversially omitted from the West Indies tour.
“I don’t see anyone else who could take the position and be guaranteed of their place in the side,” said Vaughan referring to Stokes.
“In Ben Stokes you have clearly got someone who has got a smart cricket brain, he’s going to give it everything, he is certainly going to have the respect of the players around him.”
Vaughan, though, added Stokes will require help from other experienced players in the team.
“Stokes is everything in a person and a player that you would want,” said 47-year-old Vaughan.
“But he will need a lot of support around him because when you have got that all-rounder tag and they’ve got that persona that they think they can do everything.
“You need to have someone say ‘listen Ben, just concentrate on what you’re really good at’ and that’s out on the field, making decisions and trying to just give us your best performance.”
“He has a point to prove after the last couple of months and we know how dangerous he can be in those circumstances.”
Nasser Hussain, another former England skipper, said Stokes was “naturally gifted” but England would have to be sure he can cope with the demands of the role.
“You have to be in a good place mentally and physically to do the job and Ben has had his problems away from the field,” Hussain wrote in his Daily Mail column.
“Whoever the new director of cricket is, the first thing they must do is … sit down with Stokes, look him in the eye and find out where he is,” Hussain said.
He also added that if not Stokes, then “on a short-term basis this summer, the principle of picking your best side leads me to Broad”.
“Stuart has a brilliant cricket brain, lots of experience and is a fighter who wants to win every game he plays in,” Hussain said.
Michael Atherton — who captained England 54 times — said Stokes could be a stop gap skipper.
“That Root stepped down of his own accord makes it easier now for Ben Stokes, the only viable candidate, to take over,” wrote Atherton in The Times.
“Loyalty is everything to Stokes and he would not have wanted to take over had he felt that Root had been pushed aside.
“Stokes should be given the job, but it does not have to be for the long term. A short, sharp shock is required.”
Former England Test bowler and now BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew agreed with Atherton regarding it not needing to be a long-term appointment.
However, he took issue with Stokes being a natural fit for the captaincy.
“There are so few candidates that it rules out any kind of long-term appointment,” Agnew told the BBC.
“Someone like Ben Stokes could be one if he is fit enough, but I do not know if it is good for Stokes or for English cricket if he was saddled with the captaincy.
“You look back at the big characters that have captained England like Ian Botham, Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff — they have all failed as captains.
“We all want Stokes to go out there and express himself.”