Can Ben Stokes change England's fortunes in Test cricket?

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Ben Stokes will be hoping to take England to the number 1 spot in Test cricket.

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Can Ben Stokes change England's fortunes in Test cricket?

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Kunal Joshi

06/08/2022

Ben Stokes was appointed captain of the longest format of the game after Joe Root decided to step down following a horror run during the series against West Indies. With Ben Stokes at the helm of affairs for the English team, can he turn their fortunes in Test cricket and take them to the top?

When we talk about cricket and its history, we always think about Test cricket as this was the format where everything began. Ardent cricket fans and lovers have always enjoyed this format the most as the excitement and intrigue that a good game of Test cricket can bring is completely unmatched. This format of the game allows players to tell a story almost like a movie. The emotions that teams who compete on the field undergo are like a roller coaster ride. This also takes fans on a journey that could possibly be the most memorable one in years to come. 

It is England where cricket as a sport started and has a rich legacy in the country. People from across generations who are fans of the game come to watch Test cricket in the country as it is an experience that everyone wants to have in their lifetime. 

The popularity and thrill of watching a game of Test cricket in England is massive. This also brings me to the topic of the English cricket team who for quite some time have struggled in this format of the game. Since the 2020/21 season, England has lost four consecutive Test series which speaks to the depth of the kind of performances they have given. The series against India which happened last year is also out of their hands as they can only manage to draw it if they win the final Test match of the series which will take place in July this year. 

Fingers were pointed at Joe Root's captaincy last year after his team lost the series against West Indies which led to him stepping down from the leadership role. But can you really point fingers at one man when the whole team has done miserably?

After Root's ouster, Ben Stokes has been handed the captaincy of the side in the hopes that his dynamic approach to the game might bring a change that England needs so desperately in Test cricket. But can Stokes alone bring the turnaround that the fans and ex-cricketers want to see? The simple answer is no. 

The reason behind my answer is that the biggest problem lies in their batting. Modern-day top-order batters are alien to the art of batting in Test cricket. Even English batters who are more often than not playing in their own backyard find it extremely difficult to play in their swing-friendly conditions because the amount of red-ball cricket that they play has significantly reduced due to T20 cricket taking over the world.

What you saw in the first Test match between England and New Zealand was a total batting collapse from both sides in the first innings of the game. Before you think about the pitch being unplayable or something on those lines, remember Joe Root and Daryll Mitchell scored centuries in the second innings of the match which means it was all about applying yourself as a batter and spending time at the crease.

These days batters are used to going slam-bang in every format of the game and don't seem to respect the conditions when they go to a country like England. The patience and skill level that is required needs to be top-notch and England can only succeed if their batters back the bowlers up.

Yes, Ben Stokes has the qualities of becoming a great leader as he is a player who can lead by example he is one of the finest all-rounders in world cricket right now. But, he alone can not change much if he does not get the support of his batters who open the innings as England has struggled in getting starts which is why the batters that follow are unable to bat freely and put pressure on the opposition.

So for Ben Stokes to be the leader who can turn things around for his team, the batters in the side will have to bat better. They will have to make sure that they apply themselves and play the waiting game in conditions that are challenging whether it is in England or any other part of the world. 

For England to come back to being the best in Test cricket, it is imperative that the team does well in the upcoming games. The batters will need to step up and provide a good platform for the side in the first innings of the game and make sure they are ahead of them in the match. The English fast bowlers have delivered for their side consistently and taken wickets to make sure they give their side a fair chance in the game. This is irrespective of the conditions that they play in which is a huge positive for Stokes as a captain. 

The newly-appointed skipper will just have to make sure that his side does well in the batting department. He'll need to back the right kind of batters and give them the long rope to make sure that he can bring the best out of them.

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