Atherton wants Stokes to 'grab hold' of England dressing room in absence of head coach

By Sports Desk May 02, 2022

Michael Atherton wants Ben Stokes to take the opportunity to "grab hold" of the dressing room if England are still without a head coach in his first Test as captain against New Zealand.

Stokes was last week confirmed as the successor to Joe Root, who ended his long reign as skipper following a nightmare Ashes series in Australia and subsequent disappointment in the Caribbean. 

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) are not due to start interviewing for both a Test and limited-overs head coach until next week, with Chris Silverwood sacked after the 4-0 hammering Down Under.

England start a three-match Test series against the Black Caps at Lord's on June 2 and former skipper Atherton believes Stokes can stamp his authority on the side in the absence of a head coach.

He told Sky Sports News: "Ben Stokes will be his own man; he has got a chance to shape that team now and take it in a different direction.

"There may not be a coach in place in time. These things go through a process; I think May 6 is when job applications close and June 2 is the first Test match. That's quite tight.

"That's not a bad thing in my view. I don't think since Sir Andrew Strauss that an England captain has really grabbed hold of a dressing room.

"If there is no coach in there, it will be a chance for Ben to absolutely grab hold of it, mould the team and say 'this is the way we're going to run things.'

"When [Paul] Farbrace was interim coach before [Trevor] Bayliss came in, that was actually when Stokes came back into the side, so it's not a disaster if a coach is not in place by June 2."

Atherton is fully behind the decision to split coaching duties, but did not specify who he wants to take over from Silverwood.

The former opening batter added: "Who should it be? My goodness, all of the candidates that have been talked about are very good. Gary Kirsten is a very good candidate, Simon Katich an excellent candidate. There will be any number of people.

"It's the right thing though to split, or look to split, the job. Years ago I said on Sky that England needed to consider split coaching roles. You look at the schedules now, they are so crammed, it's very difficult for one man to do everything.

"In the middle of the summer, England will be in Amsterdam for some one-day internationals in the middle of a Test series. How does one man plan for that? It's impossible.

"Last year when England were in Dubai playing the T20 World Cup, the Ashes were coming up two weeks later. Impossible.

"Looking to split responsibilities is exactly the right way to go. Two distinct coaching staffs for Test cricket and limited-overs cricket, that will make life much easier."

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