BEN STOKES – Stoked up all the way!!
It was April 3, 2016, on a hot Sunday evening at the Eden Gardens. The commentary from Ian Bishop “Carlos Brathwaite - Remember the name” became iconic marking the occasion of the West Indies cricket team clinching the T20 World Cup for the second time. Amidst all the euphoria and the celebrations surrounding the stadium that night, there stood a distraught young lad who conceded four sixes off the last over to hand over the trophy to the opposition. The name was Benjamin Andrew Stokes. Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images But the life for Stokes from that night has witnessed an upward trajectory like the COVID-19 pandemic curve in our country. The experts felt that the night of T20 WC final 2016 will be a huge learning lesson for the English man, and he would come out with flying colors in the future. And boy, how has he grown over the years! After that devastating night at Kolkata, he grew from strength to strength and played a predominant role in the victories for the English team. Thanks to his national performances, he bagged a whopping 14.5 crores IPL contract in 2017 from the now-defunct Rising Pune Supergiants. He also had a decent outing in the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy getting named in the Team of the Tournament. Fast forward to July 14, 2019, at Lord’s Cricket Ground. Having enjoyed an excellent World Cup with bat and ball, and some spectacular efforts in the field as well, he had the task of taking his team past the finishing line that evening. Stokes gave everything that he had and played brilliant innings with a bit of fortune as well on his side, taking the game to the Super over. He was the last man standing scoring an unbeaten 84 off 98 balls, while the entire team collapsed around him. Then he went on to score some crucial runs in the Super over as well, ending the 44-year wait of the World Cup win for the English team. He was duly awarded the Player of the Match for his scintillating performance. A month forward - August 26, 2019. It was a high octane filled Ashes series as usual. The stakes were high as Australia were on the verge of retaining the Ashes. But Ben Stokes played a blinder of an innings chasing an improbable 359 in the fourth innings. He took his team to victory singlehandedly scoring an unbeaten 135. That innings filled with a wide array of shots all over the ground is labeled as ‘Once in a lifetime innings’. Records tumbled on that day and Stokes truly arrived on the Test scene as well following his World Cup heroics. Stokes continued his good form on the tour of South Africa in 2019-20 as well clinching the Man of the Series Award leading his team to an away series victory. Compared to the likes of Ian Botham and Andrew Flintoff, Stokes is surging ahead in the race and poised to win the battle if not already. He has been setting benchmarks for the other allrounders of the game to catch up as well. He has been consistently featuring in the annual ICC Test and ODI teams for the past 2-3 years. He has been the go-to player whenever his captain needed – be it with the bat, ball or in the field as well. He even took the responsibility of the captaincy in the ongoing Test series against West Indies in the absence of Joe Root. He is touted as the best all-rounder playing the game and he is proving it from time to time. Earlier against South Africa in 2016, he had scored the fastest double century for England (258 runs off 198 balls). This week in the first innings of the second Test against the West Indies, he batted with caution playing more than 300 balls in an innings for the first time and switched gears later to pile up a mammoth 176 runs. In the second innings, he opened the batting scoring a brisk 78 setting up the tempo for the English victory. This shows the versatility and the adaptability that he possesses as a player who can mix caution and aggression well, making him a complete Test batsman. He also shone with the ball bowling long spells and picking up crucial wickets. He has become the personification on the field for the phrase – “make things happen”. Though he has faced some disciplinary issues during his career, he has now become a well-groomed cricketer both on and off the field. Owing to the match-winning performance at the Old Trafford this week, he has attained the No.1 spot in the Test All-rounder Rankings and No.3 in the Test Batting Rankings. Going by his words, he is just getting started and has not reached his peak yet. The story of Ben Stokes shares a little resemblance with that of Bruce Wayne. And he stands as the epitome of the famous quote– “Why do we fall? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up”. Oh boy! How has he picked himself up after the 2016 T20 WC final! He has been soaring high ever since and providing a feast to the eyes of the cricket fans across the world. Alfred never gave up on Wayne so did the England team management with Ben Stokes after that night. And they are reaping much more benefits than what they would have imagined. And the future awaits us to be amazed by more such brilliance from this young English all-rounder. About the Author The post is written by Aravind . Aravind is a graduate from IIM Visakhapatnam and an avid cricket enthusiast. He follows the game with great passion. More than mere watching, he likes to analyze the game deeply and write blogs.