England v West Indies Tests - Men's
Stokes set to captain as Windies quick worry England
England allrounder to step in for Joe Root with impending birth of his child, while fiery fast bowling from the visitors has the home side wary as Test cricket's return nears
29 June 2020, 10:49 AM AEST
England captain Joe Root is wary of a "formidable" West Indies bowling attack in the three-Test series starting next week in Southampton.
The Windies are banking heavily on their pace attack in England to defend the Wisden Trophy they claimed 2-1 on home soil in the 2019 series.
Root said England could not afford to lower their guard against an attack which featured captain Jason Holder, Kemar Roach and Shannon Gabriel – among the top 20 in official Test rankings.
"We are very aware of the skill West Indies have and what they will bring to this series," Root told BBC Sport.
"One thing that stood out was how formidable their bowling attack can be. It is really important we prepare well and we are ready for all of that."
Holder is also the top-ranked Test allrounder, followed by England's Ben Stokes, and West Indies head coach Phil Simmons has predicted their rivalry will light up the series.
"Jase is one of the most well-respected guys in international cricket," Root said.
"He took the job at a young age and we are starting to see him at the peak of his career.
"He comes across as a very good bloke. I am looking forward to chatting to him from a social distance."
Root has said he would miss the series opener from July 8 if it clashed with the birth of his second child, with vice-captain Stokes on standby to take the reins.
Veteran seamer Stuart Broad, 34, believes the side would still be in good hands, with vice-captain Stokes well-equipped to take the reins.
"Stokes will be fine. The toughest part of the job is off the field, lots of extra meetings and planning, which he won't have to get involved in," Broad told reporters in a virtual news conference.
"He has a great cricket brain, he has grown and matured over the last few years so captaining one game will be easy.
"There won't be much pressure as he's not being judged over a long period of time. I have no doubts he will be brilliant."
The three Tests – with the second and third to be played at Manchester's Old Trafford ground – will be played in bio-secure venues without fans in attendance as part of protocols to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Broad says he has spoken to sports psychologists to learn ways of dealing with the challenges of playing in empty stadiums.
"It will be a mental test... I've just got to make sure to train my brain not to get into a negative mindset," said Broad, who has claimed 485 Test wickets.
"There might be times when the minds of players drift but we need to make sure we are as engaged as possible."
England are considering joining
The West Indies will wear a Black Lives Matter emblem on the collars of their Tests shirts in the series to show solidarity with the anti-racism movement sweeping the globe. England may yet follow suit.
Just two weeks to go until Test cricket returns! Aussie skipper Tim Paine will be keeping a close eye on #ENGvWI pic.twitter.com/TAAYWiDumw— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) June 23, 2020
Broad says it is important to educate people on matters of racial equality.
"It's been good to open the conversation with everyone. People can admit that maybe their views were different in the past. It's now about moving forward," he added.
West Indies captain Jason Holder said he wants racism to be treated as seriously as doping and match-fixing in cricket.
"I don't think the penalty for doping or corruption should be any different for racism," Holder told BBC Sport.
"If we've got issues within our sport, we must deal with them equally."
"This is a pivotal moment in history for sports, for the game of cricket and for the West Indies cricket team," Holder said.
"We have come to England to retain the Wisden Trophy but we are very conscious of happenings around the world and the fight for justice and equality.
"As a group of young men, we know of the rich and diverse history of West Indies cricket and we know we are guardians of the great game for generation to come.
"We did not take our decision lightly. We know what it is for people to make judgments because of the colour of our skin, so we know what it feels like, this goes beyond the boundary. There must be equality and there must be unity. Until we get that as people, we cannot stop.
"We have to find some way to have equal rights and people must not be viewed differently because of the colour of their skin or ethnic background."
Holder said teams should be briefed about race issues before the start of any series.
"In addition to having anti-doping briefings and anti-corruption briefings, maybe we should have an anti-racism feature before we start a series," the all-rounder said.
"My message is more education needs to go around it.
"I've not experienced any racial abuse firsthand but have heard or seen a few things around it. It's something you just can't stand for."