New England Test captain Ben Stokes wants to lead a team of 'selfless' players

Star all-rounder dismisses comparisons with previous appointments of Ian Botham and Andrew Fliontoff in leadership positions

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New England Test captain Ben Stokes said he wants to lead a group of “selfless” cricketers as he plans his team's revival after a period of turmoil.

England have won just one of their past 17 Tests and that included a 4-0 Ashes thrashing in Australia and a series defeat in the Caribbean.

All-rounder Stokes, 30, was appointed to the role last week after Joe Root stood down following a five-year reign. He takes over at a time when England are bottom of the World Test Championship table.

Stokes's first match in charge is against reigning world Test champions New Zealand in a three-Test series which begins at Lord's on June 2.

“It is a challenge, especially after the last few years,” Stokes told Sky Sports on Tuesday. “There's a lot that needs to change, not only on the field, and those discussions will be had.”

Stokes said he wants his players to embody his aggressive approach to the game.

“I want to have selfless cricketers who make decisions based on what they can do to win a game in that given time,” he said.

“You're always judged on winning games, and the decisions I make are based around the best thing to do to give us that chance. I want to have 10 other guys with me who are in that same mindset.”

What will also be in the back of Stokes' mind is the record of England all-rounders in captaincy position.

Two great England all-rounders - Ian Botham and Andrew Flintoff - struggled after taking on the role. England failed to win any of the 12 Test matches played under Botham’s captaincy from 1980-81 and Flintoff won two of his 11 as captain from 2006-07, a period that included a 5-0 whitewash Down Under in the Ashes.

Stokes, however, dismissed the relevance of any comparisons. “I have had to live with the tag of Andrew Flintoff and Sir Ian Botham since I was 18,” Stokes said. “But I have always maintained I have never tried to be Andrew Flintoff or Sir Ian Botham. I am Ben Stokes.”

The question of workload is particularly relevant to Stokes, though. The star all-rounder missed most of 2021 to focus on his overall well-being, while also recovering from two finger operations.

Now he will be in the permanent glare of the media, with scrutiny on his form and his decisions in the middle as well as his actions on and off the field.

Stokes believes his experience last year helps him in that respect. “I took my break, I went and spoke with someone, and will continue to do that,” Stokes said. “I see it as a positive that me being in this role now, having gone through what I went through last summer and even before that, I have a huge amount of experience at what life can throw at you.

“I have always felt that I was someone who senior and younger players could come and speak to if they felt anything was getting on top of them or they weren’t happy with anything, I hope that continues.

“I see it as a positive that I’ll be able to relate to a lot of different scenarios that cricket and life can throw at you while being an international cricketer.”

Updated: May 03, 2022, 1:02 PM
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