England captain Joe Root will miss the first Test of their three-match series against West Indies to attend the birth of his child, with Ben Stokes set to take the reins in his absence, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) said on Tuesday.
The first Test is scheduled to begin on July 8 at the Ageas Bowl and Root will leave England’s training camp on Wednesday to be with his wife, Carrie, who is expecting their second child later this week.
Root will also miss England’s three-day warm-up match that begins on Wednesday.
With the series being held in a biosecure environment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 29-year-old will have to undergo a seven-day self-isolation period at home before joining the England squad ahead of the second Test at Old Trafford on July 13.
Stokes, who has served as England’s Test vice-captain since his appointment in July last year, will become England’s 81st test captain, while Jos Buttler will assume vice-captaincy duties.
Durham all-rounder Stokes has matured since his well-chronicled disciplinary problems early in his career and was inspirational as England won the World Cup last year.
Root previously backed the all-rounder to do a “fantastic” job in his absence, while fast bowler Stuart Broad said Stokes would have no problems stepping into the role of England skipper.
Before the announcement, Stokes said he had never set a goal to become England captain but he was nevertheless looking forward to the opportunity.
“If you look at Alastair Cook he was destined to be captain after Andrew Strauss and Root was destined to be captain after Cook, you know who the next one will be when one is coming towards the end of his career,” he said on Monday.
“If I’m being honest, I’m not one of those who people would necessarily associate with being next England captain. But I am looking forward to the opportunity of doing it.”