Ben Stokes: Does he have what it takes to be vice-captain?

Stokes has been entrusted with one of the most coveted leadership roles in England cricket

Image courtesy of: Zimbio

A steely determination is plastered on his face and he has an attitude that borders on confident and fiery at the same time. These are the attributes that make up Ben Stokes, who was appointed as England’s vice-captain in Test cricket in February.

Many people had no doubt that Joe Root would replace Alastair Cook as captain in the longest format once the latter quit after a disastrous tour of India, in which England were thrashed 4-0.

But, the role of vice-captain was up in the air. While Stokes was definitely one of the frontrunners for the position, wicketkeeper-batsman Jonny Bairstow and all-rounder Chris Woakes would have also been in contention.

While Stokes, Bairstow and Woakes all have youth on their side, England may have opted to lean towards more experienced players. With that in mind, the two players that would have fit the bill to a tee are the pace bowling duo of Stuart Broad and James Anderson.

Nonetheless, England settled on Christchurch-born Stokes. But, while most are in agreement that he has the necessary qualities to make a superb vice-captain, some are still mulling over whether England made the right choice.

For me personally, Stokes was, without a shadow of a doubt, the right choice for the vice-captaincy as he has an incredible amount of talent, with both bat and ball, a strong presence within the team and a passion that burns as bright as a lighthouse beacon.

Before harping on about Stokes’ attributes, it is important to note how much he has matured in the last couple of years despite having setbacks early on. If we were to travel back to 2014, the 25-year-old had one the most infamous moments of his career where he punched a locker after being dismissed for a golden duck by West Indies pace bowler Krishmar Santokie in Antigua.

Stokes’ actions had serious repercussions as not only did he break his hand, but he was also forced to miss the World Twenty20 that year in Bangladesh.

Stokes proceeded to punch a locker and break his hand after being clean bowled for a golden duck

Image courtesy of: Zimbio

At that time, most people who have laughed or scoffed at the idea of Stokes holding a leadership position given his unpredictable nature.

But, fast forward more than two years later and Stokes now holds the second-most powerful position when it comes to captaincy roles in England cricket.

All in all, Stokes’ transformation over the past couple of years can be described as that of the legendary phoenix, whereby he has been reborn into a strong leader that has a compassionate side and one of controlled aggression as well. As for the feathers of his old self, they have now become nothing more than ashes.

Furthermore, given that Root oozes a calmness and tranquility similar to that of South Africa batsman Hashim Amla, Stokes is a perfect fit for vice-captain as his toned down aggression will inject some enthusiasm, determination and passion into the England Test side. Basically, Root and Stokes form the perfect Yin and Yang.

In addition to the aforementioned characteristics that Stokes possesses, he has also evolved into a superb all-rounder. But, the aspect that most impresses me is how far his batting has come.

Stokes’ batting is a perfect reflection of his dual personality, whereby he can be go on the attack when needed or take a much more controlled approach.

A perfect example of this happened last year. At the beginning of 2016, Stokes lit up Newlands in Cape Town with his career-best knock of 258, which came off just 198 balls.

Stokes celebrates upon bringing up his double hundred against South Africa

Image courtesy of: Zimbio

It was an innings based on an attacking mindset mixed with raw power, during which Stokes showcased the full extent of his wrath with the bat.

Moving away from his jaw-dropping knock in Cape Town that landed him the record of the second-fastest double century in the history of Test cricket, Stokes portrayed a more mature and dependable side when England travelled to Bangladesh in October.

In the first Test in Chittagong, Stokes did not get off to the best of starts as he only scored 18 runs in England’s first innings. However, as the match wore on, he began to have an increasing impact as he took four wickets before scoring a patient 85 in the second innings. He then followed that up with two wickets and subsequently guided England to a narrow 22-run win, which led to him being named Man of the Match.

With his character traits being similar to that of a two-sided coin and possessing an ability to either wreak havoc or wear down opponents with the bat and ball, Stokes is showing exactly why England were right to entrust him with the vice-captaincy.

As for what the future holds for Stokes now that he has the added responsibility of being his country’s vice-captain, we will have to wait until July to find out when Stokes and Root assume their new duties for the first time against a star-studded South African side.

Feature written by Bimal Mirwani

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