Strauss keeps options open on Stokes captaincy
Ben Stokes will not necessarily be promoted to lead England's Test side if Joe Root is obliged to miss a game.
Root and Stokes were both appointed last week following the resignation of Alastair Cook. But while describing Stokes as "the perfect man" for the role of vice-captain to Root, Andrew Strauss, the director of England cricket, clarified on Wednesday "that doesn't necessarily mean Ben is going to be a shoo-in to be England captain at some stage in the future."
Strauss explained: "The way we've approached this is we've said: 'What do we need in a vice-captain? And what will complement Joe as captain as well as possible?'
"Ben Stokes is far and away the best candidate to do that. He's developing fantastically quickly. So as second in charge, he's the perfect man for that role at the moment.
"But just as when Joe was made vice-captain, that doesn't necessarily mean Ben is going to be a shoo-in to be England captain at some stage in the future. I don't think it would be right for me to say that, in absolutely every circumstance, Ben would definitely take over from Joe."
Stokes has even less captaincy experience than Root. While Root has led in four first-class games, Stokes had not led in any first-class or limited-overs matches for Durham or England and only has skippered Durham junior sides on three occasions (two for the Academy and one for their U17s). While Strauss suggested opportunities would be given for him to lead in tour matches where possible, he has retained the option of appointing an alternative stand-in for Root if he feels it is appropriate.
While such a move might raise questions about the need to appoint a vice-captain in these circumstances, it remains likely that Stokes would be the man to stand in for Root if required. While Stuart Broad and Jos Buttler, if selected, have some captaincy experience - both have captained England in the shorter formats - neither could be considered such an outstanding candidate at this stage that they could expect to step in if Root is indisposed.
Instead, the England management will look to find opportunities for Stokes to gain some captaincy experience during tour games with Strauss stating that "the intention" would remain that Stokes was the man to replace Root if he is injured or ill.
"It's not an easy thing to give people leadership experience when they're in the England team 12 months of the year," Strauss said. "So of course, we'll look for opportunities to be able to do that. And I do think that, by and large, there's no reason why he can't take over. That's certainly the intention."
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo