Graeme Swann: Stokes will be a fine captain but he was the wrong choice

England captain Ben Stokes
Stokes has enough on his plate with batting in the top order and contributing with the ball

England have a new normal and a new captain in Ben Stokes, even if only for one Test match, but Graeme Swann reckons the all-rounder should be left to get on with his cricket...

"The obvious thing to do would be to pick someone with heaps of experience like Jimmy Anderson or Stuart Broad"

I went my whole career bucking the trend when it came to spin bowling, disagreeing with the set ideas that you had to get hit over the top before you put a man back and things like that. To me, it was total codswallop. But even beyond spin bowling, there is still so much old-fashioned thinking in English cricket, and it seems to be the same when it comes to the captaincy.

Stokes will do a good job - but England's thinking about captaincy is backwards

When they made Joe Root captain, they were just giving it to the best player. He would have moved forward so much more just as a batsman if that's all he was focusing on, because the captaincy is a burden in this country because it's more than just captaincy - it's a PR role and everything else that goes with it.


With Rooty missing for the first Test against the West Indies (starting Wednesday 8 July), the obvious thing to do would be to pick someone with heaps of experience like Jimmy Anderson or Stuart Broad. Jimmy would be an exceptional captain because he knows the game inside out and has a better cricket brain on him than possibly anyone who has ever bowled for England before. He has to have. That's why he's so good at what he does. His record speaks for itself. He probably would bowl himself 100 overs a day though because he's only happy when he's bowling.

And Broady has done it before. When he was captain of the T20 side, he didn't have to change his character too much, but his team talks made me laugh because he tried to add an air of seriousness and it was like a rugby captain, public school Broady talking like Martin Johnson. It would always make me giggle inside.

But those two are bowlers and this country is so steeped in what has been done before that they always turn to a batsman and usually just the best player. They don't necessarily go for the best man for the job.

I'm not saying Stokesy will not do a good job - he's basically a superhero - but it was the same when they made Root captain. They just gave it to the best player and I think Joe's output with the bat has suffered ever since.

The captaincy didn't improve Ian Botham or Andrew Flintoff, and now we've got an allrounder who is outstripping Flintoff by a long way and you could even argue is matching Botham's incredible output, so maybe we should be paying a little bit more attention to history? Just because we've always done things a certain way, doesn't mean that is what we should be doing now.

Being skipper is a chance to make your mark

I got to captain England three times in T20s in 2011, twice against West Indies over here and once in India.

For me, it was a chance to have more say and put my stamp on the team in terms of who bowls when. I saw it as an opportunity to use Ravi Bopara as a bowler more than any captain before had done so because I rated him so much in the nets. In some ways, the results spoke for themselves - Rav took 4-10 in the first game and we won by 10 wickets!

I did have to be slightly different and your personality does have to change a bit when you take the captaincy. I was someone who tried to be the life and soul of the dressing room and you can't do that if you're the skipper. You have to have an air of authority.

Rooty was the cheeky little brother, the practical joker of the team, and he has had to pretend he's grown up. But Stokesy isn't like me in the dressing room, he isn't always laughing and joking, so I don't think he will have change very much.


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