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England’s enigma the perfect pivot from average Joe?


After an up-and-down professional journey, it’s hard to believe Ben Stokes is now captain of England’s Test team. Let’s review the big moments that pave his unique path to the top.

England all-rounder Ben Stokes has replaced Joe Root as England Test captain, completing a remarkable redemption story.

The captaincy for Stokes comes after he took an indefinite break from cricket last year to focus on his mental health. He also faced time out from second operation on a broken finger, before being a late inclusion to England’s Ashes squad.

Stokes is known as an outrageously talented cricketer. He’s powerful and destructive with bat and sends down dangerous medium pacers.

But the 30-year-old has also had numerous off-field incidents that have shaped his career.

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After being called up to the England Lions squad for the tour of Australia in early 2013, Stokes ended up being sent home with three matches remaining after two breaches. 

Stokes missed the 2014 World Twenty20 in Bangladesh after reacting to a dismissal in Barbados by punching a dressing room locker and sustaining a broken wrist. 

In September 2017 while celebrating a ODI victory in Bristol, Stokes became embroiled in a fight outside a club in the early hours of the morning that resulted in arrest. 

He was eventually cleared of the charge of affray, but the reputational damage had been done. He was not considered for Ashes selection in 2017-18, stripped of the team’s vice-captaincy.

And in January 2020, Stokes launched a stunning x-rated rant at a young fan after being dismissed while storming into the dressing room during the first Test between England and South Africa.

According to The Telegraph’s Oliver Brown, handing Stokes the England captain role could prove to be ‘borderline irresponsible’ and an ‘implosion waiting to happen’.

“Stokes’ pattern of behaviour suggests he does not take kindly to being judged,” Brown wrote in his column.

“As England captain, though, he will not have much choice in the matter. 

“From the second he leads out his team for the first Test against New Zealand at Lord’s in June, his every move will be subject to merciless scrutiny.”

Stokes previously held the vice captaincy position and his promotion comes after Root stepped down earlier this month, with England winning just one of their previous 17 tests – a run which included a 4-0 Ashes thrashing in Australia and a 1-0 series defeat in West Indies.

Stokes, who has scored more than 5,000 runs and taken 174 wickets in his 79 tests for England, called it an ‘honour’ to lead the Test side.

“This is a real privilege and I’m excited about getting started this summer,” Stokes said in an ECB statement.

England’s next scheduled Test match is against New Zealand, Stokes’ country of birth, at Lord’s starting June 2.

His every move will be carefully monitored. But it’s possible the all-rounder’s checkered past has moulded him into the captain England is craving right now.

Joel Martelli
Joel Martelli
The only thing that Joel Martelli loves more than football (seriously, we wouldn't be surprised if he has a Wollongong Wolves tattoo) is writing about all things sports. With a Bachelor of Communications and Media Studies Degree specialising in Journalism, he spends his days uncovering breaking athlete news stories and diving deep into play-by-play strategies. We're glad that he's put his passion to the pages of Only Sports as one of our dedicated sports writers.

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