Ben Stokes said raising an eyebrow a quiet morning at Lord’s. He does not look convinced, because all the intensity and glory of summer have long since disappeared.
In July, Stokes helped England win the World Cup despite a wild drama. He then won the most extraordinary return win in Ashes history at Headingley few weeks later.
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Less than a year ago, he had been cleared before the Supreme Court of Bristol after a clash in September 2017 in front of a nightclub, which had cost him the vice-captaincy of England, his place on the last tour Ashes, and threatened his freedom and his career.
He shrugs and smiles in a way that shows his pride is still hurt. People have tried to call it summer of Ben’s redemption, he suggests, slipping into the third person for the only time of our time together. I do not see it like that at all. I see it as if I was going out and trying to do my best to help England win matches.
He relaxes a little and unfolds his arms when I talk to him about a conversation I had with Alastair Cook, his close friend and former captain of England. Cook, who rarely makes outrageous statements, pointed out that Stokes was the most unselfish teammate he had played with. He also suggested that once acquitted, Stokes was working harder than ever as a cricketer.
I think when you know what might happen, Stokes nodded before pausing when Bristol came back. Obviously, there were moments throughout this project when we did not know what was going to happen.
His voice moves away. Has he come back with more determination to make the most of his talent?
“It’s hard to answer. But I think I was motivated by the idea of not letting anyone down. I can always leave people on the cricket field with skills and mistakes. At some point, you may not be good enough or have a bad pass. But if anything in the game affected the result and it was due to my physical form or concentration? That’s what I try to avoid. “
The World Cup final and Headingley were extremely tense. Stokes showed amazingly varied skills in two different formats, but his commitment was even more impressive than his driving stick.
Desire and courage, these very human feelings, were evident in almost every shot Stokes played. These were so authentic innings, rather than miracles of storytelling because it did not seem like Stokes enjoyed the fierce intensity with so many things that depended on him.
You can’t enjoy it until it’s over. The World Cup final and Headingley would have been terrible if we had not won them. It was a dagger in my heart no matter what I did. I could have left after scoring 84 in the final.
People would have said, Oh, good luck, but I would not have cared. In Headingley, if I had 120, people would have said again, “An incredible effort,” but it would not have mattered if we had lost. People asked me what means more – the finale or Headingley.
It’s like choosing between two-three and six. You can not the only difference is that after the World Cup, there was something to show for the efforts made.
Headingley was one of two English victories in a drawn series that allowed Australia to retain the Ashes. Stokes scored 135 away and Jack Leach, who was not absent on 1st, shared an uninterrupted partnership of 73 runs for the last box while England chased 359.
It was an incredible feat. “Maybe I could say more clearly in 20 years,” says Stokes, “but here, for the moment, I can’t choose between the two.”
Stokes is doing this interview to publicize a new book about his role in “summer to Remember”, which is particularly interesting when he reveals fragments of vulnerability under the character of the miracle-man.
After England’s defeat in World Cup games against Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Australia, they had to beat India and New Zealand in their last two group matches to qualify for the semifinals.
Stokes admits, I certainly felt the tension and I told David Young, our psychologist on the team, as much as he invited me after for a coffee. He said, How are you, Ben? I said, I’m nervous, and I opened up.
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