BEN STOKES admits he never dreamed he would ever captain England.
Stokes will fill in for expectant dad Joe Root for the First Test against West Indies, which gets going on July 8.
The all-rounder said: “I never set out with the goal of being captain.
“But it will be such a huge honour. Even if it’s only the once, I can still say, ‘Yeah, I have captained England’.”
BEN STOKES might be only a stand-in England captain — but he wants a big say in picking the team.
The superstar all-rounder will insist on taking the field with his ten first-choice team-mates against West Indies in Southampton on July 8.
Stokes, in charge while Joe Root is away attending the birth of his second child, half jokingly said: “First game in charge, everyone’s fit and we can only pick eleven.
“I might not have as many friends after this Test match!”
And he might have inadvertently given away his fast bowling plans when he was asked how much he will bowl himself.
He replied: “It depends if it’s a flat wicket. If it is, I’ll throw the ball to Jofra, Jimmy and Broady and say ‘here you go!’”
Which could mean disappointment for the likes of Chris Woakes and Stokes’ Durham pal Mark Wood.
Other dilemmas include who should replace Root at No 4 and which of Moeen Ali, Jack Leach and Dom Bess is the No 1 spinner.
Stokes, 28, added: “When crunch comes to crunch, I’d quite like to have a decent say in terms of the final XI walking out onto the field.
“It’s like a day before last year’s World Cup where there are 16 guys but you can only pick eleven. Which is a great place to be.
“What the guys do in training and the warm-up game will have an influence over the final XI.”
Stokes will skipper a cricket team for the first time since leading Durham Academy against Scotland in 2008, when he was just 17.
Root will be isolating at home near Sheffield after being with his wife Carrie for the birth, which is due any day now.
In his place, Stokes will get a taste of leadership when he takes charge of one of the teams in the three-day intra-squad match beginning tomorrow.
After the match, the squad will be reduced from 30 to around 20 for the First Test.
For many, being made captain is redemption for Stokes following his street brawl in Bristol in September 2017.
He was cleared of an affray charge but told Sky Sports News: “After that happened it was, ‘right, what am I going to do from this point forward? How am I going to carry and conduct myself?’
“I’m quite proud to say I’m in this situation through hard work and determination.
“It’s been no fluke. It’s been through the hard work and commitment I’ve shown. I don’t normally like to speak about myself in this way but looking back I’m proud of what I’ve been able to do since that incident happened.”
But, really, winning the World Cup, performing Ashes heroics, being re-installed as Test vice- captain and named Sports Personality of the Year in 2019 was his redemption.
Stokes has been a leader in the squad for several years, a talisman with a sharp cricket brain who sets a ferocious example in training.
He said: “Being a more permanent member of the team over the last five or six years makes you more comfortable and confident getting your views across.
“Getting older, playing more and maturing as a player is why I’ve found myself in this position.
“I hope I always try to set an example in terms of attitude and commitment. Having the added responsibility of captaincy also comes with pressure and making decisions, especially in tough periods.
“I haven’t really dived into the captaincy yet. At the moment, it’s all about preparing and getting to the level I want to be two or three days before the Test starts.
“I’d like to think that I’ll be an open captain and wouldn’t want to think my way is the only way.”
England are likely to offer solidarity to the West Indies team, who will wear a Black Lives Matter logo on the collar of their shirts for the three-Test series.
Stokes says the players have finally decided what form that support will take.
ECB chiefs have given approval to county cricket resuming on August 1.
A schedule will be announced early next month with priority given to the T20 Blast because it generates most money and is on TV.