Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Stokes Could Become England's Greatest If He Plays as an All-Rounder

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Stokes Could Become England's Greatest If He Plays as an All-Rounder

Article excerpt

Byline: Rob Key

THE Second Test reminded us just how good an all-round cricketer Ben Stokes is. In this column before I've discussed his role in the England side and whether he is heading towards being a Jacques Kallis-style batting all-rounder or, like Freddie Flintoff, where he is a key bowler.

Over the past year or two he has moved up the batting order, with his bowling sidelined a little. Well, that performance on Tuesday strengthened my view that his bowling should not just be seen as an extra. If his body holds up, he must be used as a pure all-rounder.

There are a couple of reasons for this and they do not all relate to how good he is at bowling.

Stokes (right) is clearly good enough to bat No5 or higher, but if he's a No5 who only bowls occasionally, he slips into a group just below the best batsmen in the world like Virat Kohli or Steve Smith. But when you throw in his bowling, he is unique, the first name on a World XI teamsheet and one of the very best England have ever had.

You don't want his batting to be burdened by the need to be a "proper" batsman all the time.

Stokes has a brilliant technique, but has never been a true runscorer. He's too special for that, in a way. Most batsmen can't even consider smashing 72 off 47 balls and smacking the quicks down the ground for six because they want to up the rate.

He only averages 36 and that's because he is always playing for the team, as Nasser Hussain says.

Bob Simpson, the old Australian coach, used to say that there was always an opportunity when someone gets to their average, because they will relax. That's how a lot of batsmen think. When you get a hundred, you can get nought in the next innings and still average 50.

Stokes is the opposite. He probably does not know what his average is, because he just plays for the team not himself. …

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