Your Sports Expresso is served! The Indian Express brings to you the latest updates from the world of Indian and international sports. From cricket, football to tennis, hockey, basketball, and more — we have you covered!
You are listening to the Expresso Sports Update. Here is a special feature on Ben Stokes being appointed England Captain, brought to you by The Indian Express.
“England’s ailing Test match team would want Ben Stokes to be the the man who cures all their illnesses.
To start with, Stokes’s appointment as England’s Test captain is good news for the game’s purest format. Virat Kohli as India captain was a great ambassador for Test cricket, someone who inspired the new-age Indian cricketers to fall in love with the long-form. Kohli is done with captaining in international cricket and it’s time for Stokes to pick up the baton. Like Kohli, he is larger than life, a global star. Stokes has the charisma and skill-set to embolden Test cricket. As for England, his inspirational presence can take the team out of the rut.
But there’s a catch. Celebrity captains traditionally haven’t sat well with English cricket – from Wally Hammond to Ian Botham, Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen. Stokes can buck the trend. He is the only England cricketer who can change the course of a match both with bat and ball. He is a good tactical mind and unlike Pietersen, he is immensely popular in the dressing room. When Joe Root belatedly stepped down as England Test captain, Stokes became a shoo-in.
He was Root’s deputy and when he did the job as a stop-gap skipper, Stokes’s captaincy was impressive. “Stokes has the fire in his belly and the positive approach to be successful. However, that alone doesn’t guarantee success,” former Australia captain Ian Chappell wrote in his ESPNcricinfo column last month. Stokes, in fact, has an unenviable job. England’s Test performance over the last one year has been pretty poor. They conceded a 2-1 lead in the home series against India, got battered in the Ashes Down Under and managed to lose a Test series in the West Indies as well. Does English cricket have adequate long-form talent for a course correction?
A captain is only as good as his team and Stokes cannot transform an average side into world-beaters overnight. Do England have an opener beyond Zak Crawley, Rory Burns, Dom Sibley and Haseeb Hameed who can inspire confidence against quality pace upfront? Who would bat around Root and Stokes in the middle-order? Jos Buttler, wooing the Indian fans with his merry-hitting in the IPL at the moment, should have cemented his place in the England Test team. It’s a shame that he has failed to do it, notwithstanding a lorry-load of talent in his possession. It’s about the mind-set, which turns a free-flowing limited-overs power-hitter into a Test imposter. Does Buttler have a Test future under Stokes, the two like-minded cricketers?
As a player, Stokes revels in playing bold and fearless cricket. As a captain also, he needs to embrace boldness. Under Root, the England Test team was going backwards. The likes of Livingstone and Harry Brook should be the way forward.
No disrespect to James Anderson, a legend in his own right, who still can make the ball talk in favourable conditions. But reverting to a 39-year-old, and 35-year-old Stuart Broad, suggests that the cupboard is bare. In his first meeting with the England men’s team managing director Rob Key, Stokes reportedly demanded the return of Anderson and Broad to the Test fold, after the duo were dropped for the Caribbean tour. As a captain, he is entitled to make demands which he thinks would be in the best interest of his team. That Anderson and Broad are still in demand doesn’t, however, hold English cricket in good stead. Imagine Indian or Australian cricket recalling a 40-year-old fast bowler as a rescue act. Imagine India recalling Zaheer Khan or Ashish Nehra, or Australia recalling Brett Lee or Glenn McGrath.
It just wouldn’t happen.
When it comes to spin bowling, if Jack Leach is your principal spinner, the selection pool has to be barren.
Stokes’s appointment, however, seems to be just the push that the England Test team needed following the Ashes disaster and the Caribbean disappointment. His whirlwind return to County cricket, an 88-ball 161, including 17 sixes, for Durham against Worcestershire, provided further emphasis on the fact, not to mention that English players have had a history of going out of form after assuming captaincy, so he will definitely hope to break the trend there.
Stokes took just 47 balls to reach his half-century but then went into overdrive, with his second 50 taking just 17 deliveries. Teenage slow left-armer Josh Baker was on the receiving end of heavy punishment from Stokes, who broke the previous county record of most sixes hit in an innings, held jointly by Andrew Symonds, the former Australia all-rounder, and Graham Napier.
The first five deliveries of Baker’s 20th over were muscled over the boundary rope by Stokes, who raised his bat after the fifth to celebrate reaching three figures, having clubbed 10 sixes in total, and was one blow away from emulating West Indies great Garfield Sobers, the only batsman in Championship history to hit six sixes in an over, having done so for Nottinghamshire in 1968.
To offer a cynical view, though, a first-class side conceding so many sixes against a batsman attests poor bowling, which doesn’t augur well for the championship. The falling standards of County cricket, caught in the quagmire of alleged apathy, is said to be a reason for the paucity of quality long-form talent in English cricket. Stokes’s real test will begin in less than a month, with the World Test champions New Zealand visiting Lord’s on June 2.”
“You were listening to the Expresso Sports Update by The Indian Express. Ask your digital assistant device to play the latest sports news from the Indian Express to
stay up to date with the most accurate and reliable updates in the world of Sports.”