Melbourne : Former Australian cricketer Ian Chappell lauded England skipper Ben Stokes for his captaincy in the first two Tests of the five-match series against India, saying that his aggressive approach and attitude has given the team success and plenty of self-belief to youngsters.
Chappell said that Stokes' leadership has made sure that the five-match series between both rivals is level at 1-1 and still wide open.
"Ben Stokes' aggressive approach to captaincy may have failed to claim victory in a hard-fought second Test but the five-match series against India is still wide open at 1-1. Much of England's success has been attributed to Bazball - the desire to score quickly and tactically rattle the opposition - but this is a misnomer. What Stokes has really done is set out to achieve victory from ball one by playing aggressive cricket in all aspects of the game," said Chappell while writing for ESPNCricinfo.
"Stokes has been extremely smart to adopt such an approach and his aggressive tactics have brought England great success in the win column. It's an approach that England was extremely slow to adopt but Stokes has shown himself to be a strong-minded and smart leader," he added.
Chappell said that England's great belief in Stokes shows on and off the field both and lauded England's approach of continuously looking for wickets. He also said that Stokes' captaincy has given the team belief that helps them produce something extra to gain some vital success on field, like a game-changing run-out by Stokes of Ravindra Jadeja, which shifted the game in England's favour and made India succumb to a 28-run loss.
"The England team has great belief in Stokes and it shows both on and off the field. The team takes wickets because they are continually looking for them, and this challenge is accepted by the bowlers. One of the great benefits of this strategy is that it enthuses the best players, and they are the ones most likely to affect the final result," said Chappell.
"The team also believe that Stokes' aggression will help them claim the odd unexpected success. This belief is what generally leads to a team producing something extra that leads to a vital wicket. Stokes' brilliance in the field helped him produce a run-out at a crucial time in Hyderabad - and it also helped increase team belief," he added.
Chappell said that Stokes' attitude has instilled a self-belief in youngsters like Tom Hartley, Rehan Ahmed and Shoaib Bashir successful. The former cricketer also said that Hartley's 14 runs with the ball and crucial 114 runs in four innings with the bat should make a limited Jack Leach "redundant".
"Stokes' attitude has helped the younger players believe in themselves, and this is showing in their bowling performances. The success of young players Tom Hartley, Rehan Ahmed and Shoaib Bashir is no fluke; it epitomises the confidence instilled by Stokes' approach," said Chappell.
"Hartley's success with both bat and ball should make the limited Jack Leach redundant in the Test side. One of England's weaknesses has been their spin department, but Stokes' positive approach suddenly means that slow bowling has a number of candidates," he added.
Chappell also pointed out that Ollie Pope's success at number three and rise of Harry Brook in the middle-order has made England's batting stronger and called for England to pick up their strongest teams in future. He also criticised England for not always picking up their best wicketkeeper and not valuing the option of an extra pacer.
"The success of Ollie Pope at No. 3 and the ascent of Harry Brook as a vital middle-order player also means the batting is potentially much stronger. These marked improvements in talent should ensure that in the future England pick their strongest available team for the prevailing conditions. England has erred in the past by not picking their best wicketkeeper and by often shunning the value of extra pace. Injuries to fast bowlers aside, this should be a thing of the past," he said.
Chappell said that England would benefit if Stokes is able to function as a full-time all-rounder and also fields in the slips, where he is "one of the best". The former cricketer also said that England should utilise less bouncers to add an "element of surprise".
"It will help England enormously if Stokes is once again able to function as an allrounder, as his bowling is a distinct weapon. It would also help if he fielded in the slips, especially to the spinners, as he is one of the best in that position," said Chappell.
"The other area where England could improve is in their use of the bouncer. It's often an overused ploy, and it must be remembered that the biggest advantage of the bouncer is the element of surprise," he added.
Chappell also said that Stokes should look at his batting as well and be more proactive.
"One personal area Stokes could look at is his own batting. If he were more proactive at the start of each innings, it would improve his play. Stokes is a very good batter but he's at his best when he's looking to score," said Chappell.
Chappell pointed out that Indian skipper Rohit Sharma is a "good leader" and the return of KL Rahul and Ravindra Jadeja from injuries will boost the team. But he also said that the absence of star batter Virat Kohli due to personal reasons is a blow to the team.
The former cricketer also urged Indian selectors to stop overestimating Shreyas Iyer's batting and value spinner Kuldeep Yadav.
"India is a strong side and they also have a good leader in Rohit Sharma. They will be greatly strengthened by Ravindra Jadeja's and KL Rahul's recovery from injury, but that Virat Kohli will not return for the rest of the series is a blow. Hopefully, the selectors will now stop overestimating Shreyas Iyer's batting ability and learn to value Kuldeep Yadav's wicket-taking capability more," said Chappell.
Chappell said that the current England side looks far better from the Joe Root-led side which landed in India back in 2021 and was destroyed by Indian spinners.
"As the home side India should eventually win a tough series, but it has a real battle on their hands. England under the aggressive leadership of Stokes is a far cry from the poorly captained Joe Root team that capitulated against spin on their last tour of the country," said Chappell.
"This India versus England contest is shaping up as it should: a tough five-match encounter between two talented sides," he concluded.