Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Stokes' Nonchalance Is Just What England Need

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Stokes' Nonchalance Is Just What England Need

Article excerpt

Byline: Stuart Rayner

AFTER being dropped for what ought to have been his first World Cup, some cricketers might have subjected themselves to pretty rigorous self-analysis. Not Ben Stokes.

Given the winter England have had, that may be no bad thing.

England sent a team of technocrats to a World Cup of artists and gamblers. Natural flair was strangled by statistics, analysis held sway over instinct. Failing to find a place for Durham all-rounder Stokes, the outstanding English talent of his generation, was symbolic.

The presence of Stokes, the lightning fast Mark Wood, the aggressive Adam Lyth, unpredictable leg-spinner Adil Rashid and the raw Liam Plunkett on the plane for the West Indies today suggests that, albeit in the longer form of the game, the message might have got through.

When asked what he learnt from a winter struggling with England in Sri Lanka but thriving when unshackled by the Big Bash and the England Lions, Stokes delivers a blank look. "Nothing, really," he replies.

When you are as good at batting, bowling and fielding as Cumbrianraised Stokes, cricket is a simple game. England have complicated it.

Stokes announced his talent in the 2013-14 Ashes. The fourth seamer batting at six, he was England's only centurion and one of only two bowlers to claim five wickets.

It was a false start. He was left out of the two-match Test series with Sri Lanka, forced to prove a higher standard of fitness than others. He played in the first two Tests against India but, batting at eight and nine, failed to score.

His limited-overs form was little better. The selectors lost faith and Stokes lost his place.

"It was a World Cup, and everyone wants to be involved in that," he reflects. "To be left out was disappointing, but you've probably got to take some disappointment in the line of work that we're in. I'm over it all now, and just trying to look forward." The key, as the likes of Paul Collingwood and Stephen Harmison stressed, to coaxing all-round performances from Stokes is to load him with responsibility, not shield him from it. Moeen Ali's side strain has left a vacancy in the No. …

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