Stephen Harmison, speaking on the Wisden Cricket Weekly Podcast, explained why Ben Stokes is the “perfect vice-captain”, but added that anything more than a temporary captaincy role would “eat into” his batting and bowling time.
When asked if captaincy could prove to be an additional burden on Stokes, much like it was for his predecessor Andrew Flintoff , who took on the responsibility ahead of the 2006/07 Ashes, Harmison said that comparing the two wouldn’t be fair since Flintoff led England for an extended period of time.
“Andrew Flintoff captained England in an Ashes in five Tests away from home, in the one-dayers, in the World Cup that was coming after,” said Harmison. “Ben Stokes is hopefully going to captain England for one Test match. I don’t think it’s right to compare the two.”
With regular captain Joe Root likely to miss a part of the upcoming Test series against West Indies, the leadership is likely to fall on Stokes. Root recently said that Stokes would make for “a fantastic captain”, given his nature of “setting the example” as a vice-captain.
“If, for instance, Joe Root gets injured and doesn’t go on the next tour, and there’s a captain for four Test matches and a longer time, I don’t think it should be Ben Stokes. No, I really don’t,” said Harmison.
“For a one-off Test match … I have always described Stokes as a perfect vice-captain, somebody you can bounce ideas off, somebody you can talk to, he’s got a great cricket brain, his knowledge is excellent, you can just see the way he bats.
“He’s always thinking about the game, he knows the situation – you can look at the Headingley [Ashes 2019] innings, it was just phenomenal, where he took the gears and he went through, but he also took the emotions at the time and where the game was, he knew how to get himself through it.
“That tells you he thinks of the game a lot. For me, Ben Stokes is the perfect vice-captain. To come in for a one-off Test match, to bounce ideas off and to be a great sounding board – anything longer than that, then you start eating into his time, which is his batting and bowling time and the maverick that he is. So, at this minute and time, I don’t think it’ll be a problem – Stokes for a one-off Test.”