"We have to go with what’s right for the team." – Ben Stokes defends decision to force James Anderson to retire

James Anderson, Ben Stokes

The upcoming Test series against West Indies will mark a new beginning for the England Test team. Two years after Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum took over the team as captain and coach respectively, the team is set to undergo some more changes.

With an eye on next year’s Ashes, England have begun to put together their squad for the challenging tour as they look to win the series on Australian soil for the first time since the 2010/11 season. One of the big decisions is to leave out James Anderson.

Although technically the England team management has not sacked the veteran pacer, McCullum, Ben Stokes and Rob Key, the chief executive of England’s men’s teams, spoke to the pacer in April and told him it was time to move on. It didn’t take long for Anderson to announce his retirement from Tests and he will call time on his illustrious Test career after the first Test of the three-match series against the West Indies.

England have also dropped Ben Foakes and Jonny Bairstow from the squad and included uncapped Jamie Smith in the team as a wicket-keeper. Players such as Jack Leach and Ollie Robinson have also failed to make it into the series as England have given opportunities to players such as Gus Atkinson and Shoaib Bashir.

I hope he gets 20 wickets: Ben Stokes

While several players have lost their place in England’s Test squad, the focus will definitely be on James Anderson. England’s most prolific fast bowler of all time will bid farewell to international cricket.

Speaking about Anderson, Ben Stokes stated that while he hopes his teammate retires from the game on a good note, the team had to make a big decision ahead of the upcoming edition of the Ashes. The England captain said that Anderson still has the skills required to excel at the international level but the team had to make a big decision.

“I hope he gets 20 wickets, if I’m honest,” Ben Stokes told The Telegraph. “I’ve heard Stuart talk about retiring and wanting to go out on top and there was one thing he said that even made me think about when the time comes for me to go. He said: ‘I didn’t want a new player to come in and go. I thought Stuart Broad was destined to be good. I thought: ‘Yeah, that’s a good thing to think about.'”

“Jimmy’s skills are still good enough for international cricket but we have big decisions to make and in 18 months we’ll have to think about the Ashes. Nobody will ever say, ‘Is that Jimmy Anderson? I thought he was destined to be good’, because he’s still incredible,” he added.

Stokes went on to say that he supported the decision only for the sake of the team and was not bothered by the reaction from others. He also made it clear that he has his sights firmly set on the Ashes as England look to regain the urn.

“You can’t make decisions based on what other people think about it. I base my decisions on what I think is best for the team here and now, but in this case, Australia was on my mind.

“It’s a difficult situation when you make these decisions because they are important decisions, but we have to do what we think is best for the team going forward. We have to be big enough and brave enough to make those decisions,” said Ben Stokes.

“If you look at the time from our last series to this one, we’ve had a lot of time to think about where we want to take the team to the next level. In sport, if you don’t think about progressing, you end up stagnating and one thing I don’t want to see as captain of this team is us staying stagnant,” he added.

Meanwhile, the first Test match between England and West Indies is scheduled for July 10 at Lord’s. Anderson has been named in England’s starting XI for the match.