Sydney, Jan 3 (IANS) England all-rounder Ben Stokes has categorically said that he never “had an ambition to be a captain”, adding that Joe Root “should not be forced into” relinquishing his captaincy in the wake of the Ashes debacle.
England are staring at a series washout after losing the first three Tests by huge margins. The tourists lost the opening Test at Brisbane by nine wickets, the second Test at Adelaide by 275 runs and the Boxing Day Test at the MCG by an innings and 14 runs, prompting several England greats to call for Root’s ouster as captain and Stokes’s elevation.
“I’ve never really had an ambition to be a captain,” Stokes was quoted as saying on Monday by sen.com.au, two days before the start of the fourth Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
“That’s totally Joe’s decision. He shouldn’t be forced into doing it. Obviously this series hasn’t gone too well — not from a captaincy point of view, but from a team and results point of view. Unfortunately, the captain and coach bear the scrutiny for that, but there are 10 other guys out there in the field beside the captain,” Stokes said.
While Root reached several milestones last year and notched up 1,708 Test runs, which is the third-most over a calendar year by any batsman in the history of the game, his leadership has come under scrutiny after a string of nine Test reverses in 2021.
Root’s differences with his pace bowlers, especially Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad, and his decisions at the toss in Brisbane and Adelaide (1st and 2nd Test) have undermined his leadership. The 31-year-old Root will become the longest-serving England Test captain, and break Alastair Cook’s record of 59 matches in charge, when the fourth Test commences on January 5.
But despite leading the side in close to 60 Tests, captain Root has not tasted victory in three consecutive Ashes series, including a tied series at home in 2019.
Former England greats Geoffrey Boycott and Michael Atherton have recently mounted pressure on the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to look beyond Root as captain.
“Captaincy is more than about setting fields, picking the team, making decisions out there in the middle. A captain is someone you want to go out and play for. Joe Root is someone I always want to play for,” said Stokes.
Stokes is the England vice-captain in the series Down Under, and filled in for Root for one Test in 2020 when England hosted the West Indies at Southampton. He also captained the limited-overs side to a 3-0 ODI series win over Pakistan last year.
“I’m sure Cooky (Alastair Cook) felt the same way,” Stokes went on, having played under the former captain when he was going through a turbulent phase.
“He did it for so long, and when he knew his time was up, his time was up (but) those discussions haven’t been entered anywhere near Joe (Root). I don’t sense that at all with Joe. He’s brought this team a long way. He’s done some great things,” added Stokes.