Writing in his Daily Mirror column, Stokes expressed his admiration for Root’s cricketing ability, but also his deep gratitude for his support as a friend – most recently during Stokes’ break from the game in the 2021 home summer, but also in the wake of the Bristol night-club incident in September 2017, after which he had feared for his professional future.
“Our relationship goes deeper and further than just team-mates,” Stokes said. “We are good friends and have been for a long time. We’ve had some great moments on and off the field during this time and we’ve also had some pretty difficult ones too and it is that mutual support that has helped make it so special.
“When I took my break from the game in 2021, Joe was brilliant,” Stokes added. “He said: ‘I just want my friend to be alright.’ The cricket came second, his concern was for my well-being full stop.
“And going back a few years now to the Bristol incident, that was where my captain really went to bat for me. That is where my total loyalty towards Joe comes from, and he will always have it because he has never been anything but a good man towards me and the rest of his players.”
Root had concluded England’s recent Test tour of the Caribbean with a declaration of his intention to carry on as captain. But, having subsequently taken a month’s holiday to reflect on an arduous year, in which England have won one Test out of 17, he last week came to the conclusion that it was time for a change.
Stokes admitted he “didn’t know what to expect” when Root’s name flashed up on his phone, but added that he knew what was coming as soon as Root started talking.
“As you can imagine it was quite an emotional conversation, but it wasn’t a long chat, there will be time for that in the future,” Stokes said. “This was an emotional few minutes and in return there was nothing but love, respect and support from me because that is what Joe Root has shown me throughout his time as England Test captain.
“Now that he has stood down, I fully expect him to continue his brilliance with a bat in hand and show why he is the greatest batsman we’ve ever produced,” Stokes added. “We are lucky to have him and he’s still got so much to offer English cricket.”
Although Stokes has not actively courted the role, he acknowledged that his name was sure to be “strongly talked about” as England’s new managing director, Rob Key, begins the process of appointing a new captain before the three-Test series against New Zealand in June.
“I’m sure we’ll talk soon enough, as he will with other players and support staff,” Stokes said of his impending discussions with Key. “It is an exciting time for us all, at the start of a new era for the Test team.”
“Obviously Ben is a fantastic player, a brilliant leader, though he doesn’t need to have the captain’s armband on to lead like he does,” Morgan told Sky Sports.
“The experience of the World Cup final here [at Lord’s] really showed his true colours in the way that he led from start to finish – and throughout the whole tournament as well. He’d certainly be a candidate.
“I think it would be hard to turn down the captaincy. It’s a privileged position to be in. Obviously circumstances have to be right, but most people who want to take red-ball cricket forward would like to take it on.”
Morgan himself has been mentioned in passing for the Test captaincy, but having not played any first-class cricket since 2019, he has dismissed the notion out of hand.
“I haven’t played red-ball cricket for a long time,” he said. “I wouldn’t have any interest in the job. I would be no good at it.”