Root not ready to confirm Stokes’ return as Test vice-captain
The all-rounder will have to wait to discover whether Joe Root wants him back as his Test vice-captain in New Zealand.
Joe Root sees how much Ben Stokes loves playing for England every time he takes the field – but is yet to decide whether to reinstate him as Test vice-captain.
Stokes’ return after a five-month international absence has brought immediate dividends against his native New Zealand.
He followed two wickets in his first match back last weekend with two more, two run-outs and 63 not out at Mount Maunganui as England levelled the one-day international series at 1-1.
An emotional Stokes stressed at his man-of-the-match press conference that it is a “privilege” to represent England.
Echoing similar sentiments, Root spelled out the all-rounder’s feelings are plain for all to see whenever he pulls on the shirt.
Stokes was unable to do that for much of the past winter – including England’s 4-0 Ashes defeat under Root’s captaincy – after being arrested outside a Bristol nightclub last September.
He was unavailable until he pleaded not guilty to a charge of affray at Bristol Magistrates Court last month.
Back in the middle, Stokes quickly confirmed what an asset he is to his country.
“He loves playing for England, and you can see that in the way he plays,” said Root.
“He leaves nothing out there on the field. He’s really dedicated to this sport. He worked really hard back home in Durham to make sure when he did get his opportunity to come back and play he was ready.”
Root and coach Trevor Bayliss nominated senior seamer James Anderson as Ashes vice-captain in Stokes’ place.
England will face New Zealand in two Tests, once this five-match ODI series is completed, but Root is not ready to name his deputy this time.
He said: “That’s a decision we’ve not agreed yet. Trevor and I will get together … but that’s not been discussed.”
Root had to get by in Australia without his premier all-rounder, but is not about to waste time thinking about what might have been.
“There’s no point looking back at it like that,” added the Yorkshireman.
“I think most important in terms of Test cricket is we look forward to this next series and make sure (Ben) can build momentum in this one-day series and keep putting in match-winning performances to give him confidence when he does come back to red-ball cricket.
“All I can say is what I’ve seen of him coming back into the environment, and he’s worked his nuts off – as we expected him to.
“He’s gone about things exactly how you’d expect a really good professional to do, and that sort of standard in training is why you get the performances on the field.”
England will be hoping for another Stokes special in Saturday’s third ODI at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium.
Tim Southee will captain the side in ODI 2 against England at Bay Oval with Kane Williamson out injured. Southee will be the 23rd player to lead New Zealand in a One Day International. #NZvENG pic.twitter.com/DD9VNIg5LL— BLACKCAPS (@BLACKCAPS) February 28, 2018
It is a venue which holds mixed memories for Root, and largely unwelcome ones for England, dating back to their last 50-over matches there – two World Cup defeats to New Zealand and Sri Lanka.
It is exactly three years since Root’s century in a total of 309 for six proved inadequate against the Sri Lankans – since when England have undergone a white-ball revolution and achieved vastly-improved results.
“I don’t think you can look at previous games too much,” he said.
“It’s a very different team now to the one that played in that World Cup.”
New Zealand captain Kane Williamson and his fellow key batsman Ross Taylor remain fitness doubts for the third ODI, with respective hamstring and quadriceps injuries.