Bayliss backs Stokes to be­come one of the greats

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

CHIT­TAGONG:

Eng­land coach Trevor Bayliss has backed Ben Stokes to be­come one of cricket’s all-time greats, jok­ing that the com­bat­ive all­rounder is likely to deck any­one who dares give him a rest.

With star pace­man Jimmy An­der­son cur­rently side­lined, Stokes is emerg­ing as one of the keys to Eng­land’s chances on a marathon tour of the sub-con­ti­nent which will see them play five Tests in In­dia in Novem­ber and De­cem­ber after wrap­ping up a two-Test tour of Bangladesh. Stokes was named man of the match after Mon­day’s dra­matic fi­nale to the first Test in Chit­tagong which saw Eng­land edge home by 22 runs in a nail-bit­ing con­test. In a match oth­er­wise dom­i­nated by spin, Stokes took six wick­ets with a mix­ture of clas­sic seam and re­verse swing that un­der­lined his grow­ing in­tel­li­gence as a bowler and im­por­tance to the pace at­tack. But he also scored 85 in the se­cond in­nings in a sixth-wicket part­ner­ship with Jonny Bairstow worth 127 runs which ef­fec­tively turned the course of the game.

Bayliss said the 25-year-old was still at a rel­a­tively early stage in his ca­reer but had the po­ten­tial to be an all-time great. “It’s go­ing to be eas­ier to judge the longer he goes. The po­ten­tial of the guy-he could be right up there with some of the all-time best all­rounders,” Bayliss told re­porters in Chit­tagong.

“Only time will tell, but cer­tainly, the strides he’s made here on the sub­con­ti­nent play­ing spin have been top class. It wasn’t all that long ago we were won­der­ing how he might go on spin-friendly wick­ets, but he’s a guy that works ex­tremely hard in the nets.”

Since the re­tire­ment of An­drew Flintoff nearly a decade ago, Eng­land have been lack­ing a top-qual­ity pace bowler who can also bat up the or­der and give them an ideal bal­ance to the side.

WORK IN THE NETS

Stokes’ ca­reer best 258 against South Africa at the start of the year sug­gested his bat­ting class but he had been seen as vul­ner­a­ble to spin-a facet of his game he has worked ex­haus­tively to im­prove.

“I think it’s his de­fence to spin that has im­proved out of sight,” said Bayliss.

“We know that if he gets a bad ball, he can hit any­thing over the fence but you’ve got to be there to get that loose ball,” he added ahead of the team’s de­par­ture for the se­cond Test in Dhaka which be­gins on Thurs­day.

“He’s a guy that in the past prob­a­bly hasn’t had a lot of foot­work-plays from the crease a lit­tle bit and backs his eye and hands. “But as we saw in the one­day­ers and this Test, he de­fended re­ally well off the front foot, got right for­ward and smoth­ered the ball be­fore it had a chance to spin and jump past the out­side edge.” While Eng­land’s man­age­ment say they may have to ro­tate play­ers dur­ing the tour to keep them fit and fresh, Stokes has made clear he will re­ject any of­fer to put his feet up and the se­lec­tors will have to drop him in­stead.

Asked if Stokes could play all seven Tests, Bayliss said it would took a brave man to bet against it and in­di­cated that he would more likely be given a breather be­tween the Tests.

“I’m not sure we’re game enough to drop him out any­way, might get a thump in the head,” said Bayliss of a player who once broke his wrist when he smashed his locker in a fit of anger.

“He’s a very re­silient per­son, let alone crick­eter. We’ve got to watch what he does be­tween the Tests to make sure he is avail­able for all the matches.” — AFP

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