Ben Stokes wants ‘selfless’ cricketers in England Test side

CHESTER-LE-STREET (United Kingdom): Ben Stokes says he wants to lead a team of “selfless” cricketers as he plots England’s revival after being named as the new Test captain. The 30-year-old all-rounder was appointed to the role last week after Joe Root stood down following a five-year reign that culminated in a string of painful defeats.

Stokes, who was vice-captain to close friend Root, takes over with England having won just one of their past 17 Tests and the team bottom of the World Test Championship table. Stokes’s first match in charge is against reigning world Test champions New Zealand, the land of his birth, at the start of a three-Test series at Lord’s on June 2. He accepts turning England’s fortunes around will be tough.

“It is a challenge, especially after the last few years,” the Durham star told Sky Sports at the northeast county’s Riverside headquarters on Tuesday. “There’s a lot that needs to change, not only on the field, and those discussions will be had.” Stokes is an aggressive, all-action pace-bowling all-rounder, renowned for his fierce commitment to the team and he appears keen to mould a side in his own image.

“I want to have selfless cricketers who make decisions based on what they can do to win a game in that given time,” he said. “You’re always judged on winning games, and the decisions I make are based around the best thing to do to give us that chance.

“I want to have 10 other guys with me who are in that same mindset.” Stokes, for all his on-field success, has known turbulent times in his career as well. He was arrested after a late-night incident in Bristol in September 2017 and then missed a tour of Australia before being cleared of a charge of affray.

“There’s a lot of things that I’ve gone through since I became a professional cricketer, and those experiences I feel are positive in this new role that I’ve got,” Stokes told the BBC in a separate interview. “I’ve been through a lot of goods and have been through a lot of bads and I feel like I can relate to both sides of what this sporting life can throw at you.”

There are fears that making Stokes — who last year took a break from cricket to “prioritise” his mental health — captain will over-burden a player already shouldering a huge workload. And some observers have pointed to the unsuccessful reigns of Ian Botham and Andrew Flintoff as proof of the dangers of appointing a star all-rounder as England skipper. Stokes, however, said: “I’ve had to deal with comparisons to Andrew Flintoff and Sir Ian Botham since I was 18 or 19. And I’ve always said I’m not trying to be either of them, I’m just Ben Stokes.”