England all-rounder Ben Stokes will captain his country at Test level for the first time next week with Joe Root officially unavailable for the First Test against the West Indies.
Root has been ruled out as he will be with his wife Carrie to attend the birth of their second child expected later this week, which takes on added sensitivity given the need for bio-secure environments around the squads.
The England skipper will need to be isolated from the England squad for a week upon his return, rendering him unavailable.
Stokes is the obvious choice as Root’s deputy, having emerged on-field during 2019 with some dominant displays including his heroics in the ICC World Cup final and the remarkable Headingley Test of the Ashes.
However, his leadership abilities are more of an unknown, having never led a side at first class level, while he was controversially cleared off affray in Bristol less than two years ago.
“After that happened [in Bristol] it was: ‘Right, what am I going to do from this point forward? How am I going to carry and conduct myself?’,” Stokes said.
“I’m quite proud to say I’m in this situation through hard work and determination. It’s been no fluke.
“I don’t normally like to speak about myself in this way but, looking back, I’m proud of what I’ve been able to do since that incident happened. It’s been through complete dedication and hard work towards the job I do.”
It is expected that Root will be available for the rest of the series, which includes back-to-back Tests at Manchester’s Old Trafford from July 16 and July 24.
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) wrote in a statement: “Root will commence a seven-day self-isolation period at home once he leaves hospital with his family. He will join up with the England squad ahead of the second Test at Emirates Old Trafford on Monday 13 July.
“Durham all-rounder Ben Stokes, who has been Root’s Test vice-captain since his appointment last July, will captain the side for the first time in Southampton. Lancashire’s Jos Buttler will assume vice-captaincy duties.”
Stokes will lead England’s three-day intra-squad warm-up match alongside Buttler, before becoming the 81st English Test skipper.