Why Ben Stokes' ODI Return Was The Only Decision He Could Make

There was no point in sitting around waiting for the next Test in January
17:00, 16 Aug 2023

In reality, it would have been a bigger surprise if Ben Stokes HADN’T come out of one-day retirement ahead of the Cricket World Cup. The England Test captain’s inclusion in the 15-player squad for the forthcoming ODI series against New Zealand puts him in line for a chance to repeat his heroics of that memorable Lord’s final in 2019.

When Stokes announced in July 2022 that he was giving up on the shorter forms of the international game, his reasoning was more than sound. He was four matches into his new job as skipper of the five-day format, was only a few months removed from a lengthy break from the sport to protect his mental health, and his body had reduced his ability to impact games at a time.

The decision also came in the aftermath of England starting a home Test match against New Zealand less than 24 hours after they had taken on the Netherlands in an away One Day International. The reality of cricket had become such that even those players who wanted to fight on multiple fronts were having to choose one or the other.


And what England are asking Stokes to do now is not the same as what compromised his body in the past. He last bowled a full 10-over stint in an ODI in February 2019, a good five months before he became a world champion, and delivered only 29 overs of seam during the recent drawn Ashes series against Australia. This is not the all-action, can’t-keep-him-still Ben Stokes of four-plus years ago, but even if – as expected – he will be in tow as a batting specialist, there was simply no case for not asking him back ahead of October’s World Cup in India.

For a start, his batting alone justifies his inclusion. Look at his impact in the Lord’s Test, with his sensational 155 having England fans dreaming of another Headingley 2019. His introduction alongside Brendon McCullum of ‘Bazball’ has seen a one-day approach in the five-day game. Stokes hit 15 sixes in the Ashes this summer, more than twice as many as the next player down the list, and memories of the way he manipulated the New Zealand attack to bring England level in the 2019 World Cup final remain fresh.

Add in the lack of Test cricket on the country’s schedule until they head to India next January for a five-match series, and there was really no reason for Stokes to sit at home and watch for the five months between now and then. Even if he plays all four matches against the Kiwis, plus the three warm-up games with Ireland before the side start their title defence against New Zealand on October 5, he could see out the full World Cup and still have a two-month rest before Test duty resumes.

His 52 not out in the T20 World Cup final at the MCG last November showed once more than the 32-year-old is built for the big occasion, and it is for his temperament on the grandest stage as much as for his career strike rate of 95 and average of around 39 that he has been offered the chance to play a part.

If there is one thing we know about Ben Stokes, it is that he will only buy into something if he is fully engaged. And that ought to be a very scary prospect indeed for England’s World Cup opponents. He couldn’t possibly repeat his brilliance of 2019… could he?

*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject to Change

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