There’s rarely a dull moment with Ben Stokes. Batting, bowling, fielding, something is likely to happen. Power-hitting to super charge a run rate or steady back-to-the-wall defence when needed. Partnership-breaking with ball in hand, or a blinding catch at slip. Frankly, he tends not to do the mundane. If he does, it’s still the box-office ballistics that fans recall most.
And, let’s be honest, he’s not afraid to mix it. A word here, a steely stare there. He’s not a man to back down for the cause, on or sometimes off, the field. Having missed the Sri Lanka leg of England’s winter schedule, the sporting press carried pictures of Stokes heading to India ready to bring his unique blend of combative cricket to help England defeat the odds.
Alas, early promise turned to disappointment in all formats from an England perspective. And it has clearly stung. No doubt with the partial intent of sprinkling a little extra spice into the IPL, Stokes has talked up the India-England rivalry and said England will be looking to extract “revenge” in home conditions.
“The schedule is pretty full on,” he said. “That rivalry that India and England have always had, it is a great series to be a part of. Wherever the series is played it always gets great attraction from all over the world. We will be looking for a bit of revenge after the Test series we have just had in India.”
India’s comeback in the series was aided by the rank-turners used in the last three Tests. When India last toured England in 2018, their batsmen looked short of answers against the swinging ball and the team suffered a 4-1 trouncing. So, don’t be surprised if the Indian tourists are greeted with green-tops throughout the five-match series, which starts at Trent Bridge on August 4.
By his own standards, Stokes’s performance in India wasn’t up to the level he demands of himself. From 14 innings across formats, the 29-year-old all-rounder mustered 442 runs and took 12 wickets. There were however, some notable contributions, not least in the second Pune ODI, where his crunching 99 and 175-run partnership with fellow short-fuse flayer of spin Johnny Bairstow, powered England to victory.
He will now add his blend of power and aggression to the Sanju Samson-led Rajasthan Royals in the IPL. Eoin Morgan has hinted strongly that Stokes will open for the franchise alongside Jos Buttler. Last year, the all-rounder was one of the few shining lights in his franchise’s wooden-spoon finish. He scored 285 runs from eight innings, including a magnificent 107 not out against the Mumbai Indians. Stokes’ consistency at the top of the order will be key to the Royals’ success this season as well. Their campaign kick starts on April 12 against Punjab Kings in Mumbai.