It’s a joy when the red ball meets the middle of the blade to disappear into the stands. And it’s even a bigger joy when the red or white cherry is able to breach past watchful defences to disturb the timber.
But what qualifies perhaps as the biggest joy on any cricketing field on any patch of the world is when the same bloke can unleash these unique and enviable powers.
For Australia, there was a Shane Watson, for India, the hunt seems content for now in Pandya, for South Africa, there was a Lance Klusener, while for England, there’s this ferocious talent called Ben Stokes.
Ben Stokes’ induction into the English side and his subsequent good performances instantly made him a superstar. And with that came along a responsibility to uphold the heritage left behind by Sir Ian Botham and Andrew Flintoff. So, quite naturally the question which hinges around Stokes and his performances so far is:
Has he done enough to be named alongside such greats of the game?
Well, even the most ardent fan of English Cricket would not dare to say yes.
He debuted for the English ODI team way back in 2011 against Ireland and played his debut Test Match against Australia in the summer of 2013. With the rich spectrum of abilities that Ben Stokes possesses, it has to be said that the New Zealand born Durham all-rounder has grossly underachieved in International Cricket so far.
His biggest moment of glory came against South Africa at Cape town in 2016 when he punished the South African bowling attack en route a masterly 258 thereby becoming the highest individual scorer in Test Cricket batting at number 6. But, when Carlos Brathwaite carted him for four consecutive sixes to win the final of the ICC World T20 in the same year, you could sense that Stokes would never be the same man again and England would possibly look beyond him. But, English Cricket would not abandon him considering his unmatched all-round abilities.
September 2017 saw him being arrested in the early hours of the morning following his alleged fight with two men near a pub which led to his exclusion from the English Test team for the tour to Australia in 2017-18.
But, it can be safely asserted that even after his tryst with failures and controversies, he has always managed to walk into the English side courtesy of his massive reputation. His recent stint in the IPL for the Rajasthan Royals was abysmal, for the lack of a better phrase and also led to criticism over his multi-million deal. Was Stokes really that much worth? What was he doing on a television commercial looking all chirpy dressed in glitzy Indian attire where on the crease his bat stood nude to the exploitation of the ball?
So, as the man celebrates his 27th birthday, let’s hope that he can live up to his reputation. With the retirement of Jacques Kallis, International Cricket dearly needs an all-rounder to fill the void.
Can, Benjamin Andrew Ben Stokes be that man?
Yes. If he wishes to.