Opinion: Ben Stokes Is The Greatest England Test Captain Ever – Captaincy in cricket is perhaps the most debated topic for the complexities that are involved in defining it. A cricket captain has much more authority over his team than, say, in most other sports.
The intangibles of describing a captain’s tenure almost always depend on the tangibles. Rohit Sharma won 5 IPL trophies as Mumbai Indians’ captain and was hailed the guy to end India’s ICC title drought. Yet, with losses in three ICC tournament knockouts in the past two years, and losing the first Test vs England in Hyderabad, his head is being demanded by the same set of fans and experts who had unequivocally predicted that he would lead India to the much-desired glory. Now, suddenly, Rohit is not the same “calm and composed” captain anymore, and “looks clueless” when the team is struggling.
On the other hand, there was little projected how Ben Stokes would fare as England’s Test captain. Brendon McCullum came in and both of them are changing the landscape of not only England’s red-ball cricket but how Test cricket is being played in the world.
Ben Stokes has a terrific record as England’s Test captain:
England have won 14 out of 19 Tests in the Bazball era under Ben Stokes and McCullum. They lost 4 Test matches and one game was drawn. England had a good shot at winning that drawn Manchester Test against Australia last year, but rain denied all action on Day 5, which also meant England couldn’t have a shot at winning the Ashes 2023 series 3-2 after being 0-2 down.
This success – 14 wins in 19 Tests – is miles better than from where Ben Stokes took over the captaincy: in the last 17 Test matches under Joe Root’s captaincy, England only won 1 Test match.
These are not early days anymore in the Bazball era. 19 Test matches is a significant amount of games, which has included 2 Test match wins over India – one each at home and away – and 2 Test wins against Australia at home, after England were 0-2 down, the first of which was a tight loss.
Lest one forgets, a majority of the players under Root have continued to feature under Ben Stokes. But they have now been emboldened to play with freedom. Getting out to a defensive shot frustrates them more than holing out while trying to get a boundary.
For captains with a minimum of 20 Test matches, Ben Stokes’ winning percentage of 70% is the second-best in the history of Test cricket.
Most successful men's Test captains by win percentage (minimum 20 matches captained):
🇦🇺 Steve Waugh – 72%
🏴 Ben Stokes – 70%
🇦🇺 Donald Bradman – 63%
🇦🇺 Ricky Ponting – 62%
🇮🇳 Virat Kohli – 59%#INDvENG
— The CricViz Analyst (@cricvizanalyst) January 29, 2024
In the 21st century, England’s two most famous and greatest Test series wins have been in Australia in 2010/11 and in India in 2012.
Even though the Ashes is the pinnacle for England and Australian fans, it was well known and agreed that the biggest and toughest challenge for Ben Stokes, Brendon McCullum, and their Bazballers will be in India in 2024 than it was at home in the Ashes last year. India have not lost a home Test series in the past 11 years, and had only lost three Test matches before the Hyderabad loss.
Stokes’ brave, tactical, and vibes-driven calls in Hyderabad helped England record one of their greatest-ever Test match victories, with the team going from trailing by 190 runs in the first innings to winning by 28 runs.
A series win in India, if it happens – with the injuries and unavailabilities in the Indian camp and struggles of their own batters against spinners; so it’s now a possibility – Ben Stokes, who is already hailed as arguably England’s greatest Test captain, will take that anointment inarguably.