Ben Stokes will captain England for the first time in the first Test against West Indies starting next week. Joe Root, England’s permanent red-ball captain, will miss the first Test and warm-up match to attend the birth of his second child. Root’s wife, Carrie, is due to give birth later this week.
The ECB confirmed that Root will have to self-isolate for seven days at home once he leaves hospital with his family. He is expected to be available for the second Test of the series, which starts at Emirates Old Trafford on July 16, and will join up with the squad at the ground on July 13.
Stokes said in a virtual press conference on Monday that he will look to take the “positive route” as captain, and Root has previously backed him for the role, saying that he would be “fantastic” at leading the Test team.
Stokes is likely to become England’s least-experienced captain in their history, never having captained a first-class, List A or T20 game in his career. According to the Times, the only other man to captain England in Test cricket in the last 50 years without having captained in a first-class game was Kevin Pietersen, who had previously led in an ODI.
Stokes admitted on Monday that he was “not one of those people you would necessarily think of as the next England captain”. He was initially awarded the vice-captaincy in 2016 before losing the role a year later following his involvement in the Bristol incident that overshadowed the 2017-18 Ashes series. He won the role back ahead of last year’s Ashes after making a personal plea to Tom Harrison, the ECB’s chief executive, following the World Cup final.
Jos Buttler will be Stokes’ vice-captain, in a move that hints he will take the wicketkeeping gloves in the first Test. The pair will each lead one side in the three-day warm-up game at the Ageas Bowl.
Confirmation that Root will miss the first Test leaves England with an interesting selection dilemma. Dom Sibley and Rory Burns are expected to open the batting, with Zak Crawley and Joe Denly seemingly competing for one spot at No. 3. Root’s absence could mean both play, or that there is an opportunity for Dan Lawrence to bat at No. 4. Alternatively, either Ollie Pope or Stokes himself could move up to No. 4, opening up a spot in the middle order for Jonny Bairstow.