Ben Stokes‘ position as England’s Test vice-captain will be discussed in the next couple of weeks, following his return to international cricket.
Stokes was not stripped of the title in the wake of the incident in Bristol last September that led to him being charged with affray to which he pleaded not-guilty last month.
James Anderson took over the role for the Ashes in Stokes’ absence, but the allrounder’s return to the fold for the New Zealand tour means it is a situation that needs to be addressed by Test captain Joe Root and coach Trevor Bayliss ahead of the two matches against New Zealand at the end of the March.
Stokes was not the vice-captain of the one-day side – that role belongs to Jos Buttler as Eoin Morgan’s deputy – so a decision was not needed when Stokes made his England comeback in Hamilton.
“That’s a decision we’ve not agreed yet,” Root said of the vice-captaincy role. “I think when we get together as a group me and Trevor will discuss a few things but that’s not been discussed [yet].”
It could be a tricky balancing act to strike given Stokes’ case is still moving through the legal system, with the first Crown Court date on March 12 – which Stokes won’t attend while he stays on tour in New Zealand.
On the field, the early stages of Stokes’ return have been a success. Following an encouraging first outing with the ball in Hamilton, where two wickets almost turned the game for England, he produced a Man-of-the-Match all-round display in Mount Maunganui with an unbeaten 63 to seal victory, alongside two wickets and a brace run outs.
Stokes spoke of the emotion he felt after his five-month absence and the privilege of playing for England. He has quickly slotted back into the set-up with team-mates unaware of him being distracted by the lingering off-field issues.
“All I can say is what I’ve seen of him coming back into the environment and he’s worked his nuts off as we expected him to,” Root said. “He’s gone about things exactly how you’d expect a really good professional to do and that sort of standard in training is why you get the performances on the field.
“He worked really hard back home in Durham to make sure when he did get his opportunity to come back and play he was ready. He loves playing for England and you can see that in the way he plays. He leaves nothing out there on the field, he’s really dedicated to this sport and it’s really nice to be able to look back on the last game and see him have such an influence on the result.”
In the build-up to the one-day series the talk had been about how confident Stokes was looking in the nets, but no amount of training can replicate match situations. His first knock of 12 was scratchy but in the second match he showed off some trademark shots, including a straight drive for six off Trent Boult. He has yet to be used for his full 10 overs – sending down two spells of four overs in each match – but he has pushed into the 140kph bracket on occasions.
“It’s testament to just how good a player he actually is, to have such a period out of the game and come straight back and perform how he has shows the skill level of the individual really,” Root said. “It’s good to see him back playing, it really is.”