Does Stokes want it?
The only surprising element of Joe Root's resignation was that it took so long. In yonder times, an Ashes defeat guaranteed a 'thanks but not thanks' note from the powers that be secreted with the tour expenses envelope.
Root's position became untenable as much for the disastrous sequence of results and tactical thunder blunders as his mismanagement of England's two greatest Test wicket-takers, James Anderson and Stuart Broad.
As soon as Root's red-ball reset began with the omission of the pair from the three-Test series in West Indies, England absolutely had to return with a win. It would have vindicated his decision to move on from the ageing, but highly-skilled pair, and given him the opportunity to mould an impressionable young squad.
Defeat for his leadership was unconscionable. His power was eroded. And he would have been forced to return to Anderson and Broad for the summer. He was effectively a lame duck.
Choosing to die on the hill of shortening Anderson and Broad's careers was a strange decision. But it was one Root felt necessary if England were to move on. After all, they will have to do so at some point and if beating Australia in Australia is the holy grail of English cricket, the pair's styles and records are just not conducive.
Adelaide was the turning point. Root publicly criticised his bowlers for bowling too short. Anderson and Broad disagreed. Such conflabs are far from unusual but it appears that a line had been crossed. Root felt his senior players should have backed him and there are more than murmurings on the circuit, fairly or not, that Anderson and Broad's influence in the dressing-room became unhelpful.
Root's successor will have to bring them back into the fold. And the easiest call for that would be to give the job to Broad. It is not surprising to see him at 5/1 second-favourite with Sportsbook.
Is the 4/7 Ben Stokes the harmonising candidate, though? Stokes is a Root loyalist to the extent that he has consistently said that he does not want the top job. Bet the Sportsbook markets here.
But before individual partisanship comes the collective. Stokes will, eventually, do what is best for his country and if he is offered the job it would be a major surprise if he doesn't take it. When in Covid strife last summer for the ODI series against Pakistan, the ECB begged Stokes, injury and all, to lead and he didn't hesitate.
Stokes is also the identikit England skip. He is vice-captain for a start and, behind Root, their best player. For all the arguments you will read in the coming days against Stokes because of this talisman role, England - and most international teams, by the way - give the gig to this man because others fall in behind the best. It's also a de facto reward (more money, the best perks, sponsorships deals etcetera) for being the top bloke on the park. Good luck keeping said player happy if it goes to someone else.
Good luck, also, to the new coach and managing director who overlook a Stokes who wants the job. On day one the pair have created potential division and angst.
When it comes to reasons why Stokes might not take the role, we are guessing about how he copes with pressure or the 'goldfish bowl'. He has taken a break from the game to focus on his mental health and he may not welcome the added scrutiny.
And what about someone else? Are there any other genuine candidates? There have been some long-shots touted since the end of the West Indies series.
Sam Billings is a name that keeps cropping up. Sportsbook rate him as short as 9/1. Given that he is not even in the Test team such a short price lends credence.
But do England really want to pick a captain because he is an effervescent character with, Lord forbid, "passion" and tears rolling down his cheeks at the mere sight of the Three Lions? It won't do much good work when he's scratching around trying to prove he's worth his place. A poor run of form will ratchet the pressure to unbearable levels and England will be at square one.
Buttler vastly underestimated
The same goes for James Vince. If cricket was about looking like a million bucks, stroking the occasional orgasmic cover drive and then getting out for 25, Vince is the greatest there has ever been. Backing him at 16s would be taking the Vince obsession too far.
If there is a value pick it appears to be Jos Buttler at 10/1. Buttler is considered the next best brain behind Eoin Morgan and his appointment could hardly be described as a shock.
He ticks almost every box including tactical acumen, strong personality, respect from his peers and, crucially, the ability to play. With Ben Foakes likely to be dropped there is a spot free for Buttler to return to the side.
Rob Key, the apparent front runner to be the new managing director, has already said that Stokes and Buttler could do a better job than Root as test captain. It could be a two-horse race.
Of course there are negatives. Whether Buttler wants the job remains to be seen. Post-Ashes his Test career looked over and he had the air of a man who was pining for the freedom of the white ball.
Something would have to go in his schedule. He wouldn't be able to do IPL, T20, ODI and Test. The decision - if it comes - rather neatly defines Buttler's career. Is he the one-trick pony in pyjamas or the man who can scale the summit?