Speaking on the Following On Cricket Podcast, former England batsman Mark Butcher used the cautionary tale of Andrew Flintoff’s time as Test captain to explain why Ben Stokes might not be the man for the job long term.
Stokes is likely to make his captaincy bow in the upcoming series against West Indies, with regular skipper Joe Root set to miss action to be present at the birth of his second child. However, while Butcher supported the all-rounder taking the reins as a temporary measure, he warned against making the switch a permanent one.
“People have been talking about Ben Stokes taking over from Joe when Joe disappears,” said Butcher, who captained England in one Test. “We’re talking about one, maybe two Test matches. This is not the same scenario when Freddie took over from Michael Vaughan in Australia where it’s an Ashes series and he’s going to be captain for the whole thing.”
Though they came into the series in possession of the urn, England were whitewashed 5-0 by their arch-rivals.
“At the time in my fledgling punditry career I said that it was just utter lunacy. The reason I thought it was ridiculous was Freddie didn’t need to be the captain of the team to be a huge influence on that team. His influence was by deed, by his imposing presence on the opposition, all those other things. He did not need to have all the other weight on him that goes along with the captaincy in order to be hugely influential in that side in 2006/07.
“And of course what happened was the extra weight of the decision making, doing the interviews, doing all the other things that captains have to do off the field, diminished the imposing presence that he had on the field. England lost two for the price of one when making him captain on that trip, when the simplest and most straightforward thing to have done was to give it to someone like Andrew Strauss, who was in the team, terrific player, born leader, and that was a huge mistake.
“I would hate to see the same thing happen with Ben. But because it’s going to be a one off Test match, it’s probably not that much of an issue, but I would still say that Ben Stokes’ influence on the field, his presence in the dressing room, is worth five times more than him being captain of the team.”