A year back, Ben Stokes was left exhausted both physically and mentally. The pressure was so tremendous that he had to take a break from cricket to ensure that he could keep himself mentally fit. All he wanted-and desperately so- was to remain healthy. Here he is; a year and half later, he’s risen like phoenix from those gloomy times into being a monumental leader. A Captain who has not only infused new lease of life in England’s Test Team but also showcasing the World how the five-day cricket will be played from now on.
As India won the 4th Test, the empty eyes of Joe Root were left wishing that his “best friend” Ben Stokes was there.
So what was happening?
Stokes was far away trying to find solace amid the break he has taken to get his mental well being on track.
A few months later England lost the series in Australia and West Indies. The players, team management, the selectors and the board were left completely clueless. The English Test cricket was into a disastrous slump which was no one was able to revive.
In such a scenario England believed in Ben Stokes, their go to man and appointed him as a captain. The charismatic Brendon McCullum was hired as the Coach. There was lot of hoopla around the appointment but deep inside the fans knew that team needed much more to avoid the shambolic run of defeats.
Karachi 2022 – They played valorously with an aspiration to change the way the Test cricket is played and at the end won 9 out of 10 Tests since Stokes took over; the number of Draws is 0 which is phenomenal.
These 15 months was a judgemental period for England; as a Test team they have come a long way on a roller coaster ride. Under Stokes and McCullum’s stewardship, the team has rebranded the elegance of the Cricket they are playing. They don’t hesitate to take a step forward thinking that they might lose.
A lot of credit for the uprise in England’s Test fortune goes to their captain Ben Stokes. In last 6 months he has led this team from front. Whenever he was required with bat and ball, he was always there but this time his strategies were also exemplary. In Rawalpindi when everyone was surprised by his declaration, Stokes was cool as cucumber, confident that his team will seal the deal which they did comfortably on time.
In the English summer the team successfully chased the targets for four times, and against India they chased down 378 run target, something which were deemed to be unthinkable few months ago.
What has helped Stokes during his captaincy reign has been the appointment of Brendon McCullum, the former New Zealand Captain. Both Stokes and McCullum have identical personalities. They are always eager to take opposition on, they never give up and they are match winners. At times these appointments result in personality clash but to England’s relief the partnership not only worked but it seems to have rebranded the way Test Cricket is played.
Ben Stokes is man of challenges, he loves them and take them on the chin, there were times when he might have fallen number of times but every time, he has risen higher than before. A new challenge waits for him in 2023, first is to ensure the sustainability of the type of cricket that they have played in 2022 and second to counter bigger challenges against Australia at home and New Zealand away
Whoever knows Stokes also understand that whatever may be the results there will be no dearth of commitment and perseverance from him.