Ben Stokes wants Alastair Cook to stay as England captain

England all-rounder Ben Stokes has hailed captain Alastair Cook as a 'brilliant leader'. Picture: Gareth Copley/Getty Images
England all-rounder Ben Stokes has hailed captain Alastair Cook as a 'brilliant leader'. Picture: Gareth Copley/Getty Images
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Ben Stokes hopes “brilliant leader” Alastair Cook stays on as England captain.

All-rounder Stokes took his opportunity to speak up for the man who has been in charge throughout his Test career so far, but whose continued tenure appears to be in serious doubt with England in danger of a 4-0 series defeat in India.

Speculation about Cook’s position – after a record 58 Tests as captain – has dogged the tourists ever since he spoke openly on the eve of the series of a future in which he may one day return to the ranks and be able to concentrate on his batting.

Three successive defeats have not helped matters, and neither of course would another in Chennai where the final Test is set to begin on Friday - despite the ravages of Cyclone Vardah - against hosts who have trounced everyone on their home soil ever since Cook’s 2012 tourists won 2-1 here.

Both teams were unable to hold Wednesday’s scheduled practice sessions at the MA Chidambaram Stadium - where groundstaff have been trying to accelerate the drying process following Monday’s vicious storm, in homespun fashion, by rolling barbecue pans full of hot coals on stumps inches above the pitch.

The match has nonetheless been given the go-ahead, with both teams set to train today but be limited to fielding, fitness drills and maybe throw-downs because the nets will not recover in time.

Stokes, meanwhile, was looking further ahead as he voiced his support for Cook to continue his four-year tenure.

“I’ve played 31 Test matches, and he’s been the captain in every single one,” he told the BBC.

“He doesn’t want anything except success for the team. He wants to drive that forward.

“As a leader, I think he’s been brilliant - and I think he still will be.”

Stokes is one of a clutch of players who have flourished, in his case notably in the 2015 home Ashes victory, then hitting a career-best 258 in Cape Town last winter and even on this tour - with several outstanding performances as England have threatened at times to be competitive without being able to sustain their challenge.

“Over the last two years, he’s been absolutely fantastic,” Stokes added.

“He’s been part of the driving force of getting us to be the team we are today.

“Albeit we’re 3-0 down, we’ve made huge strides since Australia (in 2013/14).

“Whatever happens, I’ll have a lot of respect for him and whatever decision he makes - but I hope he sticks with what he’s doing, because I think he’s doing a great job.”

Cook’s future is set to become clear after his new year tour debrief with England and Wales Cricket Board director Andrew Strauss. In the meantime, England’s immediate task is to raise their level after an innings defeat in Mumbai.