Ben Stokes ready to cover for Joe Root: ‘I’m Scottie Pippen to his Michael Jordan’

Ben Stokes has described himself as ready to be the “the Scottie Pippen to Joe Root‘s Michael Jordan” if he is required to deputise as England’s Test captain against West Indies.

Root’s wife is expecting their second child in July, and he could miss part of the three-match series in order to attend the birth and due to the bio-security protocols put in place to deal with Covid-19. Despite concerns being expressed about the extra workload on Stokes, England’s key allrounder, he said that it was part of his job as vice-captain to step up if required.

Referencing basketball great Jordan, whose Chicago Bulls team of the late 1990s was the subject of recent ESPN documentary The Last Dance, and team-mate Pippen, Stokes said he would be aiming to lead England after the example set by Root.

“There is a chance our skipper Joe Root may miss a Test this summer because he and his wife are expecting their second child,” Stokes wrote in his Mirror column. “I’m the Scottie Pippen to Joe’s Michael Jordan. It is his team. But what would be the point of asking me to do the job if not for this kind of situation?

“I understand where Joe is taking the team and how he wants to lead it. So although I’ll make my own calls on the field and do the job as I see it as the game evolves, everything else will very much be the same as when Joe is there.”

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The first Test of the English summer is now scheduled to begin on July 8, with West Indies arriving earlier this week in order to begin their preparations in Manchester. There has been major uncertainty about what cricket the ECB would be able to stage, due to the coronavirus outbreak, and Stokes admitted that maintaining motivation during lockdown had been mentally challenging.

“I’ve loved the time at home with the family, of course I have, and that will be the thing I remember fondly about this period,” he said. “But I’m glad there is a Test series to get ready for and I’m so pleased the West Indies have made it over here. Even though I’ve been training hard physically and kept in good shape, lockdown hasn’t been plain sailing. Throughout this full 13 weeks I’ve gone through lots of emotions – some good, some not so good.

“My motivation has gone up and down and there have been times when it has been really hard to even think about playing. I’ve had periods where I’ve gone for days without doing a thing because I’ve thought, ‘What’s the point?’ As an athlete you are so used to getting yourself ready for the next thing.

“Testing yourself, competing against team-mates and opponents, improving yourself and striving to get better, but when there is nothing lined up ahead of you as was the case, then you need to find motivation somewhere else and that isn’t always easy.”

England’s players have been back in training for a few weeks – initially on their own and now in small groups – and will convene at the Ageas Bowl, venue for the first Test, towards the end of June. After so much time without cricket, Stokes said he had initially felt rusty facing Durham team-mate Mark Wood in the nets, but was working towards peaking in days before returning to Test action for the first time since January.

“I know that cricket is nearly there and I cannot wait to get back out there and have the first – possibly socially distanced – huddle on the field when it is just the 11 of you going into the game together.

“Getting properly Test match-ready is going to take a bit of time and that is what our camp at the Ageas Bowl will be for. But I don’t want to be good to go when I rock up there. I want to have a few things still to work on to get up to full speed. I have learnt from experience that the time to peak is a day or two before a Test match, not three weeks out.”

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