Ben Stokes: I have given myself the best opportunity, but the mind and body are different things
England Red-ball captain Ben Stokes’ return to competitive cricket has been among the major talking points for the home team as England prepares for its arduous home summer, which will begin with the one-off Test against Ireland on Thursday (June 1) while Stokes’ bowling role has been questioned because to a persistent knee injury.
England Red-ball captain Ben Stokes’ return to competitive cricket has been among the major talking points for the home team as England prepares for its arduous home summer, which will begin with the one-off Test against Ireland on Thursday (June 1). Stokes’ bowling role has been questioned because of a persistent knee injury, but he seemed optimistic about his fitness.
“I have worked incredibly hard with the medical team in Chennai, who were liaising with the ECB guys, and got myself into a place where I feel like I am back at 2019, 2020 space in terms of my own body and fitness,”said Stokes.
“I have given myself the best opportunity, but the mind and body are different things. But yeah, I have given myself the best chance.”
The legendary all-rounder only appeared in two games for the eventual champion Chennai Super Kings in the just concluded Indian Premier League. Stokes has acquired for a whopping INR 16.25 crores, and because of a persistent knee issue, the CSK medical staff and ECB’s physiotherapist worked together to keep an eye on him and to get the 31-year-old back to full health.
“I’ve been away in India for nine weeks and made a promise to myself and team-mates, in particular the bowlers, that I will be doing everything I possibly can to be in a position to fulfill that role,”Stokes said.
“I’ve done that.
“The knee is obviously in a much better place than it was in Wellington. I’ve been in India for the IPL over the last nine to 10 weeks but what I have done is get myself into a position where I am not able to look back and regret or say I have not given myself the best opportunity to play a full role with the ball this summer.”
Even though Stokes seems to have fully recovered, his workload management will remain a matter of suspense, especially with the high-profile Ashes series just around the way. If anything, Stokes is now even more driven to get back his rightful place as an all-rounder, which England’s skipper so desperately wants to play.
If the fabled 2019 Ashes series is any indication, England will need his bowling just as much, particularly if the surfaces end up being favorable for the batters. Stokes’ ability to bowl long tireless spells is a quality not many in the England side possess and the all-rounder knows that he’ll have to do whatever it takes to do his bowling duties to the optimum.
“It has been a frustrating period for me, especially with the knee injury that has been hanging around. I know I won’t look back on this series and regret any decisions that I had in the build-up period because I’ve worked my nuts off.
“I’ve tried a lot. Especially over the winter. But the great thing that sport and being out in the arena gives you is adrenaline. So it gives you stuff you’re able to do in a game that you probably would not be able to do with training. I might turn up every day and bowl like I have before this little niggle turned up.”
One of the debatable selections in England’s XI for the Ireland Test was the decision to give Josh Tongue his first cap after he beat out veteran all-rounder Chris Woakes for a slot. It was a risky choice given the latter’s great performances in England over the years and his track record at Lord’s, but Stokes had a clear justification and emphasized that it was a long-term choice.
England’s bowling attack has generally been criticized for being monotonous with the lack of an x-factor in there. Stokes’ team has desired a bowler who can offer them something different from Stuart Broad and James Anderson with Jofra Archer out injured and Mark Wood being questionable. In other words, enforcers can make things happen even when the conditions seem to be docile.
“It was a hard decision to make,”said Stokes.
“We know Woakesy is a very experienced player and what he will offer this team when he plays. We see this as a great opportunity to see someone like Josh Tongue go out and play in a Test. We might need someone like him throughout the summer.
“It allows me to see what his character is like and what he is like to operate with as a captain. Woakesy completely understood that. We won’t plan too much because we don’t know what will happen, but all the bowlers know they need to be prepared to play every game this summer. It’s exciting we’re able to see another pace bowler come through the ranks.
“Tonguey has been someone who has been spoken about ever since he first came on and played for Worcestershire. He is someone who possesses a bit more pace than most of the guys who have been spoken about as the next guys in line and he’s started pretty well this year with Worcestershire as well.
“Having someone who can bowl with that extra pace so he can come on and change the way the game is going and have that ‘X-factor’, is always great to have on your side. I am looking forward to getting him involved and watching him get his Test cap tomorrow.”