London: Ben Stokes says he will captain England his own way in the first Test against the West Indies following advice from regular skipper Joe Root.
Yorkshire batsman Root is missing the opening match of the bio-secure series starting on Wednesday — the first major international cricket fixture since March — to attend the birth of his second child.
Vice-captain Stokes, who will lead the side in his absence, was asked by reporters on Tuesday what was the best advice he had received about his new role.
“The best message that I have received was when I got my photos done yesterday (Monday) in the blazer,” said the star all-rounder.
“Rooty just left a message on the hanger which said ‘Do it your way’.
Even though Root will not be with the squad at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton for the first Test in the three-match campaign, Stokes said he would not have any qualms about contacting his friend.
“Just because Joe is not here doesn’t mean I am not going to use him,” said Stokes, who will be captaining a team for the first time since he was a teenager.
“With Joe and his personal situation, it’s been about letting him deal with that.
“I haven’t been on him too much but I am sure when the Test match starts, I know for a fact he will be at home watching and I know that his phone will always be available for me to get in contact with him if I need to.”
– Test return –
The first Test, taking place behind closed doors, will mark the return of international cricket from the coronavirus-enforced lockdown and Stokes said the precautions taken by England and the West Indies could serve as a model for other sports.
“There are obviously a lot of rules and regulations that have been put in place for this to happen,” said Stokes.
“I feel as though a lot of respect has been shown from both sides to make sure this works. Because if you get one thing wrong, it might blow this whole ‘get sport back on to the radar of people’ further back.
“We’ll be doing everything we can to make sure we don’t mess it up.”
Stokes said the absence of spectators would be no reason for England to let their standards slip in what will be a “massive occasion”.
“We can’t use that as an excuse to not feel up for this game because we know we have hundreds of thousands of people following us and wanting us to do well back home watching us on TV.”
England and the West Indies will wear Black Lives Matter logos on their shirts in support of the campaign against racial injustice and Stokes said Tuesday his side planned a further “gesture”, although he did not specify if this would mean taking a knee.
“We aren’t in any way shape or form showing support towards any political matters on the movement,” said Stokes. “We are all about the equality through society and sport.”