NASSER HUSSAIN: Ben Stokes has the respect, class and aura to lead England out of the doldrums – and if not him, I’d have Stuart Broad to replace Joe Root!
- Joe Root should be very proud of how he conducted himself as England captain
- But it was time for a change and I think Ben Stokes is the best man for the job
- If Stokes does not want the captaincy, bowler Stuart Broad should be next in line
Joe Root should be very proud of how he conducted himself as England captain, not only because he has been successful but also for being a fantastic ambassador for the game.
Root has won more Tests in charge than anyone else in England’s history and he has always done that with a smile and managed to retain his class and dignity throughout the difficult times.
He has carried on scoring runs, too, which has often proved difficult for England captains. As he acknowledged on Friday, the job does take over your life.
Joe Root should be proud of how he behaved as England captain but it was time for a change
For me, Ben Stokes (pictured) is the best man to replace Root as captain of England’s Test side
But the most important box you have to tick as captain is results, and one win in the last 17 Tests and no wins in the last five series suggests it is time for change.
It is time for a new voice and someone else to take the team in a different direction. Those results are not all down to Root. He has had to put up with a batting line-up that has continually failed him, despite various changes in personnel, and one he has had to hold together himself with the bulk of England’s runs.
Clearly, he has made mistakes. There have been tactical errors on the field and bad decision-making off it, mainly with selection, and in the end that has cost Root the job, whether he jumped or someone tapped him on the shoulder.
The tactical side of the game never came naturally to Joe. You never felt he had that gut feel for the nuances of the game. It was all a bit forced and tactics were never his strong point, whether it was field placings or getting bowlers to bang it halfway down the pitch.
And one thing that was certainly a mistake, and which the captain has to share responsibility for, was not taking two of England’s greatest bowlers — Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad — to the Caribbean.
Not taking James Anderson (left) and Stuart Broad (right) to the Caribbean was a big mistake
I said as soon as the tour party was selected that Anderson and Broad deserved better than to be treated the way they were, and in my view their non-selection cost Root another series because they would probably have bowled England to victory in Grenada.
The biggest issue is England have not turned up to any game in the last couple of years and simply picked their best side.
Yes, there were extenuating circumstances with Covid but they have been guilty of looking months and even years down the line with their rest and rotation policy without ever concentrating on what was in front of them.
When you have won only one of 17 Tests, you just need to rock up to the next one and pick the best 11 cricketers for the conditions right here and right now.
Treat every game as you would the World Test Championship final. Do not over-think or over-complicate the game. England have not been good enough to do that.
Stokes is world class but also has a great cricket brain, an aura and commands massive respect
Where do England turn now? I would go for Ben Stokes. He is naturally gifted and world class but he also has a great cricket brain and thinks his way through situations, as he showed both in the 2019 World Cup final and that summer’s Ashes Test at Headingley.
Stokes also has such an aura that he commands massive respect in the dressing room and the players hang on his every word. Root would absolutely buy into Stokes as captain, too, and would be there for his great friend. Ben is a very loyal bloke and would not have wanted the job while Joe had it. Now it might be a different matter.
He should not be judged either on how other great England all-rounders such as Sir Ian Botham and Andrew Flintoff have fared as captain. There have been people who have looked obvious England captains and not done so well but others who have surprised people with how well they have done when given the chance.
But, as I and every former England captain know, 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.
Whoever the new director of cricket is, the first thing they must do is drive up the A1, sit down with Stokes, look him in the eye and find out where he is. The job takes over 24/7 and England have to be sure Stokes can cope with everything that goes with it.
If not Stokes, then experienced bowler Broad (above) would be my pick to take over from Root
Whoever comes in will have exciting young players like Saqib Mahmood (right) to work with
And 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.
He has a point to prove after the last couple of months and we know how dangerous he can be in those circumstances.
If he ruffles any feathers and people are not sure they want to play under him then, sorry, but I do not give a damn. England need someone to tell the players how things are and that they have to be better.
This is a good time to take over in England cricket, whether that is as director of cricket, captain or coach because, as I found out all those years ago, the only way is up. And there are a lot of good young players out there.
It feels all doom and gloom at the moment but it is amazing how quickly things can change with a new voice and new energy in the side. But the mindset has to be right, starting at the very top.
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