Stokes, Holder to lead from the front Ben Stokes

LONDON. — Two of the world’s best all-rounders in Ben Stokes and Jason Holder will be captaining their respective sides when England face the West Indies in the first Test cricket at Southampton starting today.

Holder tops the ICC’s Test all-rounder rankings, with fellow paceman Stokes in second place as international cricket resumes for the first time since March 2 following the coronavirus lockdown.

They both average in the 30s with the bat, with Holder’s bowling mark of 26.37 slightly more economical than Stokes’ 32.68.

But while Holder (28) is a seasoned skipper, today’s match will be the first time the 29-year-old Stokes has captained a cricket team since he was a teenager.

England’s talisman has been thrust into the role, with regular skipper Joe Root missing the series opener to attend the birth of his second child.

Pace-bowling all-rounders Ian Botham and Andrew Flintoff saw their individual games decline with the cares of the England captaincy.

The concern is that something similar will happen to Stokes, a key figure in England’s World Cup triumph last year when his spectacular century also saw the team to a remarkable win over Australia in an Ashes Test at Headingley.

It appeared any chance of Stokes becoming England captain disappeared when he was charged with affray following an incident outside a Bristol nightclub.

But after being found not guilty at a 2018 trial, he regained a position of responsibility as Root’s vice-captain.

“After that happened it was ‘right, what am I going to do from this point forward?,” Stokes said last week. “I’m quite proud to say I’m in this situation (of being England captain) through hard work and determination.”

Holder was made captain of the West Indies’ one-day side aged just 23.

A year later he was put in charge of the Test side against a backdrop of administrative chaos that included bitter rows between senior players and administrators.

Sympathy for his plight has sometimes overshadowed recognition of his cricketing skill. — AFP.

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