London : Former England captain Michael Atherton is excited at the prospect of newly-appointed Test skipper Ben Stokes getting a chance to mould England in his way and direct the side’s fortunes towards a different direction in the longest format of the game.
Last week, on Thursday, Stokes was appointed as the Test captain after Joe Root stepped down from the role in April. His first assignment as the full-time Test captain will be a three-match home Test series against current World Test Championship (WTC) winners New Zealand, starting at Lord’s from June 2.
“Ben Stokes will be his own man; he has got a chance to shape that team now and take it in a different direction. There may not be a coach in place in time. These things go through a process; I think May 6 is when job applications close and June 2 is the first Test match. That’s quite tight. That’s not a bad thing in my view. I don’t think since Sir Andrew Strauss that an England captain has really grabbed hold of a dressing room,” said Atherton to Sky Sports News.
Atherton further felt that if a coach is not there with England in time for the first Test, it wouldn’t be a bad thing for England, who are currently seated at bottom of points table of the second WTC cycle. “If there is no coach in there, it will be a chance for Ben to absolutely grab hold of it, mould the team and say ‘this is the way we’re going to run things.’
“When (Paul) Farbrace was interim coach before (Trevor) Bayliss came in (2015), that was actually when Stokes came back into the side (against New Zealand), so it’s not a disaster if a coach is not in place by June 2.”
Atherton, who captained England 54 times in Test cricket between 1993 and 2001, was also pleased with new managing director Rob Key splitting men’s team coaching jobs into white-ball and red-ball formats.
“It’s the right thing though to split, or look to split, the job. Years ago I said on Sky that England needed to consider split coaching roles. You look at the schedules now, they are so crammed, it’s very difficult for one man to do everything. In the middle of the summer, England will be in Amsterdam for some one-day internationals in the middle of a Test series. How does one man plan for that? It’s impossible.”
“Last year when England were in Dubai playing the T20 World Cup, the Ashes were coming up two weeks later. Impossible. Looking to split responsibilities is exactly the right way to go. Two distinct coaching staffs for Test cricket and limited-overs cricket, that will make life much easier.”
Asked about his preferences as head coaches of England, Atherton remarked, “Who should it be? My goodness, all of the candidates that have been talked about are very good. Gary Kirsten is a very good candidate, Simon Katich an excellent candidate. There will be any number of people.