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Ben Stokes: England captain says off-field issues can help in his new role

Ben Stokes pictured at Durham's Chester-le-Street ground
Stokes was speaking from the home ground of his county, Durham’s Chester-le-Street, at his unveiling as England Test captain

Ben Stokes says the off-field issues that have occurred during his career will help him as England Test captain.

The 30-year-old was speaking at his unveiling as skipper, having been named Joe Root’s successor last week.

In 2018 Stokes was found not guilty of affray after a fight outside a Bristol nightclub, while last year he took a break to protect his mental health.

“Those experiences are a positive in this new role I have got,” the all-rounder told BBC Sport.

“I have been through lot of good and bad and feel I can relate to both sides of what can sport and life can throw at you.”

  • Stokes the right man for the time being – Agnew

Stokes also had time off from England duty in 2020 as he took compassionate leave to spend time with his father Ged, who had been diagnosed with brain cancer, and died later that year.

Having resumed playing, Stokes announced in July 2021 he was taking an indefinite break, returning to action in December for the Ashes against Australia.

“I can relate to people whether that be good or bad or on the field or off the field,” added Stokes, who also spoke about comparisons with Andrew Flintoff and Ian Botham, his plans for the Test side and the vacant head coach and vice-captain positions.

“I don’t see anything I have gone through as a negative, if anything I see it as a way I can always try and help people.”

‘I am Ben Stokes – not Flintoff or Botham’

Root stepped down amid a difficult period for England’s Test team after a run of one win in 17 Tests.

The suitability of Stokes, who said he had never held ambitions to become captain, as his replacement was questioned by some because of an already heavy workload and the difficult tenures of two previous England all-rounder captains in Andrew Flintoff and Ian Botham.

“One thing I have always had to deal with since I was 18 or 19 is comparisons to Andrew and Sir Ian Botham,” Stokes said.

“I have always said I am not trying to be Andrew or Ian Botham, I am Ben Stokes.”

Stokes said as a captain he will lean on senior players for advice and admitted he will require the right people around him to “take pressure off my shoulders”.

“It would be naïve and stupid to think my way is the only way and no one else has a voice or input,” Stokes said.

“A leader needs to make sure other people around them feel valued and a voice. I will be using that and not thinking I can do everything.”

Broad and Anderson to return, the coach & ‘crucial’ vice-captain

Stokes confirmed bowlers James Anderson and Stuart Broad would be available for selection for his first Test as captain against New Zealand on 2 June, after the veteran pair, England’s two all-time leading wicket-takers, were left out of the recent tour of West Indies.

“I want to win games of cricket for England,” Stokes said. “The best way to do that is picking your best XI and in my opinion if Stuart Broad and James Anderson are fit they are available for selection.”

He said he would be asked his opinion on England’s new Test coach, with England in the process of appointing a replacement for Chris Silverwood, who left after the Ashes defeat in the winter.

Stokes also said he will consider “very hard” who to appoint his vice-captain although, speaking to Sky Sports, he ruled out naming Root in the position.

“The vice captain is a very important and crucial role,” said Stokes, who had been Root’s deputy until the Yorkshireman’s resignation. “Sometimes it can just seen as a token gesture.

“You have got to help your captain. I know how vital I was in helping Joe along that road.”

Speaking about his plans for the team, Stokes added: “I want selfless cricketers who make decisions based on winning the game of cricket for England.

“At the end of the day the most important thing is winning. I want to be part of a team that has that real mentality, that doesn’t take a backwards step.”

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