#ENGvsWI: Ben Stokes to lead England in Root's absence
England captain Joe Root will miss the series opener against West Indies as his wife Carrie is due to give birth to their second child, later this week. As a result, all-rounder Ben Stokes is set to lead the Test side for the first time. The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) confirmed the news on Tuesday. Here is more.
Root will leave England's pre-series training camp at the Ageas Bowl on Wednesday to be with his wife. The skipper will also not feature in the three-day intra-squad match, which serves as a lead-up to the first Test. Under health protocols for the bio-secure series, Root will begin a seven-day self-isolation period at home once he leaves hospital.
Wicket-keeper Jos Buttler will take over as vice-captain for the opening match of the series. With his appointment, the quest of finding a wicket-keeper for the first Test seems to be over. The likes of Jonny Bairstow and Ben Foakes will also be looking to the seize the opportunity as the series progresses. However, Buttler has the edge at the moment.
Root's absence will open the horizon for Rory Burns, Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley and Joe Denly. The likes of Sibley and Burns are expected to open the batting, with Crawley and Denly competing for the number three spot. There is also a possibility of seeing Jonny Bairstow in the whites as a specialist batsman. Moreover, Stokes could also promote himself in the batting order.
Ben Stokes will likely become England's least experienced captain in Test cricket. Notably, he does not have any captaincy experience in First-class, List A or T20 game in his career. Stokes was awarded vice-captaincy in 2016 before losing the role a year later due to his involvement in the Bristol incident. However, he reclaimed the role ahead of last year's Ashes.
As expected, Stokes' captaincy role is likely to last a single Test. "I've never set a goal out to be a captain. Alastair Cook was always destined to be England captain after Andrew Strauss," he said. "Root was always destined to be captain after Cook. I'm not one of those people you would necessarily think of as the next England captain."
Stokes and Buttler will captain the two England sides in the three-day intra-squad warm-up game at The Ageas Bowl, starting Wednesday. Reportedly, Somerset fast bowler Jamie Overton and Surrey spinner Amar Virdi have not been selected from the 30-man group. The selectors will certainly have an eye on the game, as the Test series against West Indies commences on July 8.
Team Stokes: Dominic Sibley, Keaton Jennings, Zak Crawley, Jonathan Bairstow, Ben Stokes (c), Ben Foakes, Moeen Ali, Lewis Gregory, Craig Overton, Jack Leach, Olly Stone, James Anderson, Saqib Mahmood. Team Buttler: Rory Burns, James Bracey, Joe Denly, Dan Lawrence, Ollie Pope, Jos Buttler (c), Sam Curran, Chris Woakes, Dominic Bess, Mark Wood, Jofra Archer, Stuart Broad, Matthew Parkinson, Ollie Robinson.