Ben Stokes - Oh Captain, My Captain

In just under one month, England will take to the field once again, facing off against the West Indies on our own shores. However, it's very likely that England will be without their captain for at least one of those tests.

Joe Root's wife is due to give birth to their 2nd child in early July, Joe obviously wants to be there and then will have to isolate before joining his teammates. Ben Stokes in his role as vice-captain is likely to take over the reins in the short-term. Although Joe Root has backed his team-mate, former captains David Gower and Kevin Pietersen have warned about the pitfalls of putting too much on Ben's plate.

Talking to TalkSport, KP said:

"The entertainers and the guys that have to carry that mantle in the team sometimes aren't the best captains, and sometimes struggle with the extra added pressure.
"You get looked at completely differently: responsibilities change, communication changes, the way in which you carry yourself in the dressing room changes. It's a difficult place to be. I struggled with it: I absolutely hated it, and I was rubbish.
"It's a completely different story. So do I think I want to see Ben Stokes change from who he is and the current player he is? Probably not. Jos Buttler would be my guy."

Ben Stokes is quickly becoming England's most reliable bat, and a game-changer with the ball, he's unquestionably the best fielder on any cricket pitch. However, he also comes across as a natural leader.

KP for a long time was England's best player, and teams often make the mistake of making their best player their captain, regardless of their ability to lead. Stokes shows leadership every single time he's out on the field, and yes there is a big difference between showing leadership and then having to strategically manage a game, but isn't this the person opportunity to test Ben?

This is a win-win situation for England. Joe Root is the captain, he's going to remain the captain. However, every team should have a succession plan and at the moment I don't think England do. KP elects to go with Jos Buttler, but how long is Jos Buttler going to be in the England set-up on current form? If his batting doesn't improve he's going to be MIA for the next series. Here's a chance to test someone who's going to be in and around the team for years to come, a perfect opportunity to see if he can handle the extra responsibility.

We have first-hand evidence that the burden of captaincy weighs heavily. When Joe Root took over from Alastair Cook in 2017, his average was 52.80, it currently stands at 42.42. Dropping over 10 points from your average is huge, and I'd argue that Root has fallen away from the elite batting circle which contains the likes of Williamson, Smith and Kohli. So if Stokes excels and shows an aptitude for leadership while maintaining performance levels, it may be an avenue England need to explore if they want to see the best of Root again.

KP isn't the only former captain to have their say, David Gower, who's captaincy was a disaster (record of 5 wins and 18 defeats) has also said Ben should be left alone:

"I prefer Ben Stokes to be your de facto leader by example," Gower told the Mail on Sunday. "He works his nuts off, and trains super hard. He's a driven cricketer.
"The obvious comparison is Beefy [Ian Botham], who was of that ilk, who inspired and led just by being there. Whether that is diminished by the pressures of leadership, only Ben will know. I'm sure he'll do it with gusto. I'd just want someone else to worry about the bits and pieces that make up captaincy."

Captaincy is a strange thing. Some excel, some falter. If I were a betting man, I'd put my money on Stokes excelling. He's the kind of player who elevates his game when presented with a challenge. At least give him a chance.

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