Stokes off to IPL despite chronic knee injury
Ben StokeS insists he will go to India and fulfil his £1.6million IPL deal with Chennai ahead of this summer’s Ashes, even though he admits he is ‘frustrated’ by the condition of his left knee. the england captain has tried to play through the chronic injury but was unable to bowl more than two overs in the second test defeat by new Zealand and was clearly struggling for mobility when he batted yesterday.
But Stokes, who broke his finger playing in the IPL in 2021, rejected any notion he should miss the biggest franchise competition in cricket to either rest the knee or consider surgery ahead of the Ashes in June and July. Instead, he will look to manage the condition through the IPL and will liaise with Chennai coach Stephen Fleming to ensure he does not exacerbate the knee injury. ‘I’m going to the IPL,’ he said after the conclusion of a remarkable second test at the Basin Reserve. ‘I’ve had conversations with Flem and he’s aware of the situation with my body. It’s a week-byweek case at the moment.’ Stokes, who has previously played down the injury, said he knows what the problem is but would not reveal details. However, he admitted he was frustrated that it has stopped him from balancing his side as a genuine all-rounder.
‘I’m not going to lie, it’s incredibly frustrating knowing something has been holding me back,’ said Stokes. ‘I’ve been working hard trying to get myself to a place where I can fulfil my role as I have done for the last 10 years. ‘I’ve got a four-month period now to get it better before the Ashes because I want to be turning up for the first test able to fulfil my role properly. I’ll be doing everything to give myself the best opportunity not to have to worry about it.’
Not so long ago, people waking up in the UK to find England had lost a test by one run would have been looking for a scapegoat.
But the overwhelming feeling the morning after the thriller in Wellington was that we had all witnessed something special.
Yes, results are important. Ultimately, it is what a team and a captain are judged on. I was a win-at-all-costs kind of captain, and I still feel the hurt of one or two matches that got away from us during my time in charge.
But the thing about this England side is that they have been getting the results. only a superb rearguard from New Zealand in their second innings at the Basin Reserve prevented a clean sweep of all five winter tests.
occasionally, of course, the way England play under Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes will leave the door open for the opposition — whether it is declaring eight down in the first innings or enforcing the followon with plenty of time left in the game. But you can’t have it both ways. You can’t applaud Stokes’s boldness on the one hand — as manyny were after he calleded his team in at 435 for eight on the second d morning — then complain after they have lost by a whisker. If England score two more runs, , Stokes is a genius. thiss is just the wayy it is now, and 10 test wins out of 12 tells you it is working.
In fact, without the mindset that allowed Stokes to declare early, or to put New Zealand in again, we would not have seen this fantastic turnaround. there is a bigger picture hhere, and fair play to McCullum and Stokes for seeing it. When they took oveover as coach and captcaptain, they laid down ttheir marker early. they cocould easily have wavered or gone defensive. But they never have. Even after losing to South Africa at Lord’s, McCullum’s main takeaway was that England should have gone harder. It reminds me of Eoin Morgan’s approach in the early days of his white-ball revolution in 2015. occasionally, England would get it wrong, and critics would tell them to rein it in. But Morgan shut out the noise and told his team to crack on.
the only area of concern I have is the skipper’s knee.
In truth, I have been worried about it for some time, and this winter Stokes has had to be clever about looking after it.
Eventually, he will just be a batter/captain, which is fine: he would still walk into any team. But it does upset the balance of the side, and with the Ashes coming up he needs to be in constant communication with the ECB medical staff while he is at the IPL. England need Stokes as their all-round option this summer, and if that means playing for Chennai Super Kings as a specialist batter, so be it.
He has seen the bigger picture when it comes to making test cricket exciting. I just hope he nurses that knee in India in the coming weeks — because England’s Ashes hopes could depend on it.