Ben Stokes quashes England captaincy speculation and backs Joe Root to continue

Ben Stokes quashes England captaincy speculation and backs Joe Root to continue

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Stokes insists under-fire Chris Silverwood retains dressing room’s support

Ben Stokes has insisted that he has never held any ambition to be England’s Test captain on a permanent basis and that Joe Root and Chris Silverwood retain the “thorough support” of the dressing room.

Root enjoyed a remarkable period with the bat in 2021, breaking England’s record for most runs in a calendar year, but has come under fire for his captaincy during the Ashes with Geoffrey Boycott, Michael Atherton, Ian Chappell and Ricky Ponting among his more high-profile critics.

“I’ve never really had an ambition to be a captain,” Stokes told reporters in Sydney. “That’s totally Joe’s decision. He shouldn’t be forced into doing it. I’m sure Cooky [Alastair Cook] felt the same way. He did it for so long. When he knew his time was up, his time was up [but] those discussions haven’t been entered anywhere near Joe.

“I don’t sense that at all with Joe. He’s brought this team a long way. He’s done some great things. Obviously this series hasn’t gone too well – not from a captaincy point of view but from a team and results point of view. Unfortunately, the captain and coach bear the scrutiny for that but there are 10 other guys out there in the field beside the captain.

“Captaincy is more than about setting fields, picking the team, making decisions out there in the middle. A captain is someone you want to go out and play for. Joe Root is someone I always want to play for.”

Stokes also threw his support behind Silverwood, who on Sunday became the latest confirmed Covid case in England’s touring party and is self-isolating in Melbourne with his family. Silverwood looks likely to pay for England’s crushing defeat with his job but Stokes insisted that he retained the players’ support.

“At the end of the day, the most important people’s opinions are those guys in the dressing room and they’ve got our thorough support,” he said. “Chris Silverwood… he’s a real players’ coach. He stands up for you as individuals and players as well.

“All the hype in the media recently about their futures, it’s your [the media’s] job to write that. But they know full well they have the support of everyone in there and that’s all that matters.”

Stokes has struggled to make an impact on his return to the Test side after missing the summer series against New Zealand and India due to a finger injury and then a mental health break. He has managed only 101 runs across six innings and has taken four wickets at 62.25, and described his own series as “pretty average”.

“I look at things from a team point of view and obviously coming into the fourth game 3-0 down, there’s not a lot of positives when you say it like that,” he said.

“Just getting back out there from a personal point of view – being back out amongst the lads has been great. I’d much rather the results were going our way and obviously they haven’t been. But you’re representing your country, representing England in an Ashes series, so you take the rough with the smooth.

“We’ve shown in small stages that we’re capable… but we’ve not done it for long enough or consistently enough and Australia have managed to get through those periods where we’ve had the upper hand. It’s about doing it for longer than that and putting some pride back into the badge.”