All-rounder Ben Stokes has been announced as Joe Root’s replacement as England’s Test captain.
The news comes after the 2019 Cricket World Cup winner made his return to the international game following his announcement that he was taking an indefinite break from the sport in July 2021.
But why did Stokes, who has 174 wickets and more than 5,000 runs to his name from his 79 Tests, make the decision to temporarily quit? And what was the story behind the other times he spent time away from the England set-up?
🏴 Ben Stokes is England’s new Test captain!
🏏 He’s only the second all-rounder (alongside Freddie Flintoff) in the last 40 years to take on the role. pic.twitter.com/QS3kY243Na
— 𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐒𝐩𝐨𝐫𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐍𝐞𝐰𝐬 UK 🇬🇧 (@sportingnewsuk) April 28, 2022
Arrest and acquittal
Stokes, then his country’s ODI vice-captain, was dropped from the England side in September 2017 after being arrested following an incident outside a Bristol nightclub.
It was alleged Stokes punched one man and knocked out another. He insisted he was acting in self-defence after intervening to defend a couple who were being subjected to homophobic abuse.
Stokes was initially selected for that year’s Ashes tour, but subsequently ruled out while disciplinary procedures took place.
He returned to international cricket during the ODI series in New Zealand in February 2018 and was cleared of affray the following August at Bristol Crown Court. The couple Stokes defended described him as “a real hero”, adding that “he’s obviously put his career at risk for someone that he never knew”.
Thanks for all the messages, proud day for me and my family. I love playing cricket for England, see you at Lord’s pic.twitter.com/AvgN4DDLah
— Ben Stokes (@benstokes38) April 28, 2022
Compassionate leave in 2020
Stokes, who averages 35.89 with the bat and 32.12 with the ball in Tests, took a period of compassionate leave to travel to New Zealand to be with his father, Ged, who died that December.
The all-rounder, who was born in Christchurch, missed two Test matches against Pakistan during his leave, and said that his father encouraged his return to cricket, adding: “He told me I have a duty to do the job that I do and I have a duty as a husband and father as well.”
A mental-health break
The 30-year-old revealed his plans to take time away from cricket in July last year to “prioritise his mental well-being”, as well as recovering from a fractured finger. “The pain was just ridiculous,” he said of the injury.
The Durham star was supported in his decision by England’s then-Team Director Ashley Giles, who said: “Ben has shown tremendous courage to open up about his feelings and well-being.”
In October, Stokes was named in England’s squad for the Ashes tour to Australia. Although that series ended disastrously for his side in a 4-0 defeat, Stokes made clear his delight during the second Test in Adelaide on returning to the team.
“I’ve loved every minute of [my comeback],” said Stokes, who earned the Man of the Match award with his unbeaten 84 in side’s victory in the 2019 World Cup final against New Zealand. “Walking out on to the field and wearing the Three Lions is one of the great feelings as a cricketer.”
Since then, Stokes played all three of England’s Tests against the West Indies in this year’s 1-0 series defeat in the Caribbean. However, he is yet to return to the ODI and T20 fold for his nation.
His first match as captain is set to be against New Zealand at Lord’s in June.