Sydney, Jan 8 (IANS): Ben Stokes is the only man who can be the captain of England's Test side, believes former Australia skipper Ricky Ponting. He added that Stokes could improve his own game with the leadership thrust to him. With England's Test fortunes crumbling under current captain Joe Root, questions have been asked on whether a change in captaincy will revive the team in the longest format of the game.
"The only person that can take over is Ben Stokes. I think Stokes would actually grow as a player if he was the captain of that side. I think with a bit of extra responsibility, he might become an even better player and that might have a good impact on the rest of the team," Ponting was quoted as saying by cricket.com.au.
The previous history suggests all-rounders like Ian Botham and Andrew Flintoff, who gave up captaincy after struggling in the role, may prevent England from giving Stokes full-time skipper work in Test cricket. But Ponting felt making Stokes the captain could be the turnaround England needed in Test cricket. Stokes made 66 in the first innings despite having a side injury on his left.
"You'll find instances right the way through even with top-order batters where it hasn't worked. It just sits well with some and doesn't with others. I don't know Ben Stokes that well, but if I was trying to change the face of English cricket and trying to give a bit more of a heartbeat and a bit more soul, then I think he'd be the one that I'd be looking at to lead the team. Even with what we saw yesterday, to stand up under that much physical pain says a lot about him, and his teammates will thrive off that. Anyone that plays underneath him, I'm sure will grow an arm and a leg."
Ponting also warned Root that continuing as Test captain after the ongoing Ashes would wear him down, drawing parallels with the final days of his own captaincy stint and Root's current scenario. "I just think it's going to grind him down. Even looking back on my career, I played a couple of years longer -- and potentially even captained a couple of years longer -- than I should have. The challenge just gets harder and harder, and it weighs you down."
The 47-year-old signed off by saying there might be conversations at England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) on Root's Test captaincy future. "Where England cricket are right now, they're looking at a pretty ordinary last eight or 10 test matches, they might just need a complete reboot with a fresh face in charge. I'm not saying that he needs to go or that he has to stand down. But I reckon it will be a conversation in the back in the backrooms of at the ECB."