Just How Important Is Ben Stokes’ Return to English One-Day Colours
Stokes announced his retirement U-Turn and will play in WC [Twitter]
The last time that Benjamin Stokes ended up playing a one day international World Cup game, he ended up lording it and that too, at Lord’s, arguably the most important cricketing destination of the sport.
Ben Stokes did, well and truly, essay a performance that given the annals of English cricket go a long way in time and is likely to never be forgotten.
For a team widely recognised as being the creators of the sport itself, but had remained agonisingly adrift from a World Cup title, Ben Stokes displayed superiority and heroism in the all important crunch game against tough opponents New Zealand.
Stokes, the big match player
Emerging as the top scorer on either side, Ben Stokes perhaps played what could be called the most important fifty of the glorious 2019 edition of the men’s World Cup.
His 84 off 98 was a starry effort that helped England emerge as the calm force though not always in full control during a tense run chase. Later on, the enigmatic hitting amid much pressure, although also luck assisted, enabled England to have their nose ultimately ahead in the thrilling fiesta the world witnessed.
That Stokes emerged unbeaten on both counts- the run chase as well as the super over effort- was emblematic of his ability to glitter amid pressure.
And that was that.
Now that Ben Stokes returns to the popular fold of one day cricket, an arena he had voluntarily decided to back step from, there’s understandably boundless excitement in the news of the return.
It’s a return that given Ben Stokes’s own standing in the game as a premier all rounder and arguably, its best in the recent times cannot be possibly overstated.
His importance as a giant contributor to England, all set to begin their title defence in India later this year, can be felt by just the dazzling accumulation of stats he’s managed in the twin departments of the game; which is besides the towering presence he lends to a team driven by pure athleticism.
And how’s that?
The importance of Stokes' comeback
From 105 one dayers, the New Zealand born English cricketer has already collected 74 wickets including a fifer and struck nearly 3000 runs.
To an age smitten with stats and where number-crunching on a regular basis is about as important a phenomenon as counting a cricketer’s social media followers, just how important is the stat-riddled fact that Ben Stokes needs another 76 runs to complete 3,000 runs in one dayers?
But away from the sway and captivating pull of statistics, Ben Stokes’s return to the English fold is about as good a news especially from the point of view of his team’s morale as that of being reunited with an irreplaceable family member.
Perhaps at a time where neither among the resurgent Proteas, the daring Australians or the exceptionally powerful hosts India are looking any weak, it’s just the breakthrough that the England national side needed.
Few other things could really matter as much.
His big match credentials hardly ever posing any doubt, “Stoksey” as he’s lovingly called, will look to do a repeat of his exceptional 2019 world cup efforts.
The last campaign saw the man who wears the English gear in deep pride produce 465 runs from 10 innings at a blistering strike rate of 93 whilst maintaining an average north of 66. During that very campaign, the right arm medium paced accumulated 7 wickets at an enviable economy of under 5.
Moreover, to a team that has only recently lost the towering spanker of bowlers in the form of Alex Hales given the batter’s sudden retirement with their being no Eoin Morgan anymore, the consistent side will depend on star performers like Stokes to leave no stone unturned and no challenge unattempted in restoring glory back to Her Majesty’s land.
Interestingly, Stokes won’t be alone in challenging the authority of some of the most smashing names in world cricket - given he’ll he contesting against the likes of Kohli, Rohit, Bumrah, Warner, Smith, Starc, Perera, Markram, de Kock, Rabada, Babar, Rizwan, Afridi, Shakib, Tamim and the likes.
The quintuplet of Root, Buttler, Wood, Moeen and Bairstow will together with Stokes put forth a strong English challenge miles way from the balmy comfort of playing back at home.
All of that told, the sheer fact that intrepid fans will get to see one of the most agile and committed athletes in the game return to the big match stage will keep everyone on the tenterhooks.
What needs to be seen and with avid interest is just how successful will Stokes’s return to that arena be whose unforgiving demands had once make him shudder with misery given the sheer management of workload?