Ben Stokes has admitted he “could not be a---d” to continue putting his body through the demands of being an all-rounder after this year’s Ashes series, but now has a “plan” that will see him back bowling next summer.
Test captain Stokes will make his first ODI appearance in 14 months against New Zealand at Cardiff on Friday after coming out of retirement to play in the World Cup, but he has opened up on the “comedown” he experienced following the dramatic drawn series with Australia just over a month ago.
The 32-year-old, who will play the entire tournament as a specialist batsman at No 4 due to the tendonitis in his knee that prevented him from bowling in four of England’s six Tests this summer – admitted that by the end of the Ashes, he had become frustrated by the injury, and wondered if he had the energy and desire to be an all-rounder anymore because he gets “bored” when not bowling.
“I’ll be doing some more intensive work from now till summer next year, making sure I’m giving myself the best chance I can playing the next two to three years as an all-rounder,” he said. “You go through different thoughts. At the end of the Ashes when I had another difficult series with the ball, my knee is sore, I can’t be a---d with this anymore, just too hard. But then you pull yourself away from that and keep pushing on, give yourself the best chance to do it. I get bored in the field when I’m not a bowler.”
Having got over the emotions of an “exhausting” series, he has held conversations with specialists that make him confident that he will be back bowling by next summer. Stokes would not be drawn on the exact details of his plan, but said there is the “potential” to have surgery after the World Cup. There is more than two months between the final of that tournament and England’s first Test in India in January. He explained that “a very good plan” that could include surgery on his chronic knee injury between the World Cup and January’s Test tour of India will allow him to resume full duties as an all-rounder in 2024.
“There’s actually quite a long time off after the World Cup,” said Stokes. “We have a good period after the World Cup is due to finish, then we have that India tour at the end of January.
“I’ve been having some good conversations with some specialists, rehab and physios, the surgeons, the guys who know what they are doing. There is a plan in place. I know what’s going to happen, I just don’t think now is right time to say what I’m doing.
“When we do what we need to do to give myself a chance of getting back to being a genuine all-rounder there will be a time when I can say what I’m doing. We have got a very good plan in place, the medical team have been brilliant, getting different opinions.
“It’s nice knowing after the World Cup we’ve got something, a really good plan we can do and we can stick to. I want to be playing next summer as a genuine all-rounder. This winter is all about playing this World Cup, then getting this knee sorted.”
Stokes also said that the lure of helping England defend the World Cup title he was so central to securing in 2019 was too strong to resist. He would not be drawn on the possibility of playing in next year’s Indian Premier League – where he has a deal with Chennai Super Kings worth approximately £1.6 million – or next year’s T20 World Cup. Instead, he is excited to get stuck into England’s bid to become back-to-back world champions.
Stokes said that when he retired from ODIs last summer he did not think he would return for the tournament, but conversations have been going on behind the scenes with white-ball captain Jos Buttler coach Matthew Mott for six months.
“It’s been a conversation that’s been ongoing with Jos and Motty. We kept it pretty internal and just had catch-ups along the road. When you think of it from a personal point of view, we won the World Cup in 2019 and the closer and closer it got to, I start thinking differently around that and going to India and trying to defend the World Cup was a big reason into saying ‘I’m available for selection if you want to choose me to come’.
“Going there as world champions, trying to retain it, was really quite appealing.
“The words ‘World Cup’ is something that’s pretty inspiring. Going into this one as world champions, playing a part in that in 2019, that was an unbelievable moment for us as a team and myself. The idea of going in and potentially being able to win back to back World Cups was one of the big things.”