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Ben Stokes plays down England captaincy potential and backs Joe Root and Chris Silverwood despite horror Ashes

·3 min read
Logical successor: Ben Stokes is the obvious next choice if Joe Root steps down as England’s Test captain  (AFP /AFP via Getty Images)
Logical successor: Ben Stokes is the obvious next choice if Joe Root steps down as England’s Test captain (AFP /AFP via Getty Images)

Ben Stokes has provided a robust defence of England captain Joe Root and head coach Chris Silverwood, saying he has “never really had an ambition” to be skipper.

Stokes is a close friend and vice-captain of Root, as well as a fiercely loyal team man, so his endorsement comes as little surprise.

However, he is seen as the only realistic alternative to Root if he decides to step down after another gruelling Ashes tour.

His defence of Silverwood should be music to the ears of a head coach facing another six days in isolation with his family having tested positive for Covid-19. Silverwood is under extreme pressure for his job after England lost nine Tests in 2021.

“At the end of the day, the most important people’s opinions are those guys in the dressing room and they’ve got our thorough support,” said Stokes of the noise around the camp.

“Captaincy is about more than 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.

“Chris Silverwood exactly the same. He’s a real players’ coach. He stands up for you as individuals and players as well. All the hype in the media recently about their futures, it’s your job to write that. But they know full well they have the support of everyone in there and that’s all that matters.”

Stokes has captained England in one Test, when Root was on paternity leave in 2020, and three ODIs this summer in emergency circumstances.

Asked if he would be interested in succeeding Root when he steps down, Stokes said: “I’ve never really had an ambition to be a captain.

“That’s totally Joe’s decision. He shouldn’t be forced into doing it. I’m sure Cooky [Alastair Cook] felt the same way. He did it for so long. When he knew his time was up, his time was up. Those discussions haven’t been entered anywhere near Joe yet.

Stokes has also provided his backing for under-fire England head coach Chris Silverwood (Getty Images)
Stokes has also provided his backing for under-fire England head coach Chris Silverwood (Getty Images)

“I don’t sense that at all with Joe. He’s brought this team a long way. He’s done some great things. 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 and I’ve not sensed that [he is ready to step down] from Joe whatsoever.”

Stokes spent four months out this year with a finger injury and mental health issues. He has struggled on his return, averaging 16 with the bat and 62 with the ball in the Ashes.

“Pretty average to be honest,” he said, when asked to evaluate his performance. “I look at things from a team point of view and obviously coming into the fourth game 3-0 down, there's not a lot of positives when you say it like that.

“Just getting back out there from a personal point of view, being back out amongst the lads has been great. I'd much rather the results were going our way and obviously they haven't been. But you're representing your country, representing England in an Ashes series so take the rough with the smooth.”

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