Key said he had “no hesitation” in making Stokes skipper, in what is his first major move since taking the job 11 days ago.
Stokes is set to lead the team against his native New Zealand at Lord’s on June 2, assuming his return to action for Durham next month goes smoothly.
Key, the former Kent captain and England batter, said Stokes “embodies the mentality and approach that we want to take this team forward into the next era of red ball cricket”.
Stokes, who has contested 79 events since his debut in 2013, succeeds his good friend Joe Root, to whom he paid tribute. Root stepped down on Good Friday after five years in the role.
England have won just one of their last 17 Tests, a streak that includes a winless winter in which they lost the Ashes series 4-0 and then were beaten by the West Indies in a game decisive in Grenada.
A huge change in the squad is now likely, starting with the returns of James Anderson and Stuart Broad to the team. Key and Stokes both want the veterans back after being left out for the Caribbean tour.
“I am honored to have the chance to lead the England Test team,” said Stokes. “It’s a real privilege, and I’m delighted to start this summer.
“I want to thank Joe for all he has done for English cricket and for always being a great ambassador for the sport around the world. He has been an important part of my development as a leader in the dressing room. , and he will continue to be a key ally for me in this role.
Stokes was Root’s vice-captain but, at this point, doesn’t have an official sidekick. This is partly due to a lack of options; very few players are certain of their place in the XI.
Stokes once captained England. In 2020 he came on as Root was on paternity leave for a Test against West Indies (which England lost), then last summer parachuted in to lead the ODI side against Pakistan. His teammates praised his inspiring leadership as a second-tier England side won 3-0.
His appointment is a risk; as a bowler, Stokes puts his body on the line and risks injury, and last year he took time off the game to manage his mental health.
He has also had other problems off the pitch, including in 2017 when he was charged but cleared of the fight after an incident outside a Bristol nightclub. It caused him to miss another 4-0 loss to the Ashes.
Key’s to-do list remains very long ahead of a summer in which England will face New Zealand, India and South Africa.
He advertised for two head coaches, one for Tests and another for white ball cricket. Paul Collingwood is the favorite – but not a certainty – for the limited gig, while Simon Katich, Graham Ford, Jason Gillespie and Gary Kirsten are in the mix for the role of Test. The application deadline is May 6, with interviews taking place the following week.
Stokes’ appointment fills one of many vacancies since the Ashes lost. In addition to the coaches, Key is looking to appoint a national coach. The ECB is preparing for the departure of its chief executive, Tom Harrison, and is already looking for a new president, Ron Kalifa being the favorite, but Martin Darlow now in charge on an interim basis.