Ben Stokes to vie with Eoin Morgan for use of Ben Stokes

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We very much hate announcements of announcements. You know – when they announce that an announcement is going to be made and also exactly what that announcement will be. Hopefully by the time you read this Ben Stokes will have officially been announced as England Test captain and we can all forget this infuriating netherworld of “expected to be named”.

As we highlighted a couple of weeks ago when Joe Root stood down, the biggest issue for Ben Stokes the Test captain is less the fact that he’s six cricketers in one and more the fact that he’s so in demand for all three formats.

Stokes sacked off cricket completely for a good chunk of last year because he simply couldn’t take it any more. Having him run the Test team while remaining a central pillar of Eoin Morgan’s white ball sides will take some innovative management.

That’s why the Test captaincy and the two head coach jobs are probably less important than the national selector role that’s likely to rematerialise at some point soon. That person and director of men’s cricket Rob Key will be the ones allocating playing resources between the various formats in the coming years and attempting to manage the unmanageable.

What is ‘the unmanageable’?

Morgan will want use of Stokes the all-rounder in both T20s and one-day internationals. Stokes the captain will want – and presumably get – use of Stokes the all-rounder in Tests. History tells us that if both men get what they want, pretty soon neither will have what they want because Stokes will be burnt out, injured or diminished by his workload in some magical new way.

So how the new management team maintain a sustainable state of affairs is anyone’s guess. “Oh well he’ll probably only play white ball games in the lead-up to a World Cup,” you might be thinking – but there’s a T20 World Cup this year, a 50-over World Cup in 2023 and another T20 World Cup in 2024. There isn’t really a gap in the white ball schedule where you could omit Stokes and leave him to concentrate on running the Test team.

So maybe your restrict him to two formats a year: Tests and T20s this year, Tests and ODIs in 2023 etc.

It’s not a great solution.

> Separate teams? What might a world of cricket format specialists actually look like?

The other worry

Secondary to the playing-himself-into-the-ground concern is the more familiar concern that Stokes might bowl himself into the ground.

The cliché is that Stokes would run through a brick wall for his captain. He’d probably do more than that for his own team. He’d probably try and run through the adamantium wall of a secret nuclear bunker.

It’s all well and good being all cold-blooded and high-minded about it and saying, “Well, he’d have to be very honest and realistic and see the bigger picture and limit how much he bowled.” Next thing you know, it’s the afternoon session and England really need a wicket and the ball’s reversing and so he bowls one more over. And then that’s a really good over, but he didn’t quite get the breakthrough, so he bowls one more.

Match situations have no time for your strategies. Circumstances piss on your level-headed planning.

Look, just read the piece linked below, okay? That explains what can happen in a much, much better way.

> Which England all-rounder has the worst record as captain – Botham, Flintoff or Stokes?

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  1. Leave him out of the T20 team, that’s the team that misses him the least. If Luke Wright were 10 years younger very few people would be calling for him to be in the T20 team yet he has better batting and bowling averages and strike rates than Stokes in T20is. Bopara has very similar stats as well.

  2. Surely this will Make Things Happen for England.

    Just maybe sometimes not the Things they want To Happen….

  3. Straight swap with Root getting more white ball games. And he is an all rounder of sorts.

  4. I like Rob Key but this seems a really bad piece of management. Why appoint a captain before you’ve appointed the coach? The coach would probably have picked the same captain but it should be their choice. It would have made more sense to me to wait a few weeks.

    1. Not sure it quite works like that in cricket. There are different kinds of partnership, but we’ve just seen in Australia how its sometimes the captain who names (or perhaps more accurately in that case rejects) a coach.

      1. Agreed it’s how cricket tends to be done but we’ve seen in other areas that the cricket establishment sometimes needs to change.

        I don’t see any benefit in appointing a captain at this time unless Stokes is part of the recruitment process of the new coach. If he is then I very much stand corrected and it’s a cracking piece of management!

    2. The way I see it, key has several options for coach but only one option for captain. Maybe it makes more sense to find a coach who can complement the captain.

      IMO Kirsten would be a great choice. He’s a facilitator and I think would work well with a captain with some personality (like Stokes and unlike Root)

  5. Maybe just go the whole hog and make him captain of the white ball sides too, ala Kohli. It’ll kill him in a few years but he might just love it enough to drive both teams forward for those few years.

  6. Some players thrive on workload. Others collapse under it. Especially in test cricket, captaincy can often have a detrimental effect on batting, although there are enough exceptions to make that far from a certainty.

    Stokes will most likely be one or other of these. As such, the decision to make him captain can only be properly viewed in that light, depending on what happens in the interim, and of course, on other things as well.

    You’re welcome.

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