After Ben Stokes announced his retirement from one-day international cricket, Sky Sports‘ Nasser Hussain talks of his shock at the decision and looks at the contributing factors, including a ‘crazy’ cricketing schedule for players who feature in all three formats…
It came as a surprise, to be honest.
You thought he would be looked after, in terms of being rested from various white-ball tournaments and formats – he’d already announced he was going to miss white-ball series’, and The Hundred. To completely knock 50-over cricket on the head is a massive surprise.
I guess it’s the schedule. The cricketing schedule is absolutely crazy at the moment.
If you just play in the one format – say Test matches – it’s absolutely fine. But if you’re a multi-format, multi-dimensional player, and even a Test match captain like Stokes, who throws himself into his job 100 per cent on and off the field, eventually something’s going to have to give.
For Ben, it is 50-over cricket, which is a real shame because he gave us and England fans their greatest day for a very long time in 2019, a day we’ll never forget with that World Cup final win.
In a battle, if you ask me for one cricketer in the England side who’s up for it in a tough situation, who’s a winner – you can’t teach that, you’re not born with that – Stokes has that and he has that in abundance.
That World Cup final, if there’s one cricketer you want at the end battling, it is Ben Stokes. The same with the Ashes Test match at Headingley that same summer.
He’s a very bright, smart cricketer, he’s a winner and he’s a fighter.
‘Cricket schedule is madness for players’
It is disappointing news to say the least but it is a reflection of where the cricketing schedule is at the moment. It is madness for players.
If the ICC just keep putting on ICC events and individual boards just keep filling the gaps with as much cricket as possible, eventually these cricketers will just say I’m done.
Stokes is done with one format aged 31, which can’t be right, really. The schedule needs looking at, it is a bit of a joke at the moment.
It looks like 50-over cricket is the one everyone is looking at, because everyone loves Test match cricket and everyone loves T20 cricket.
The IPL is getting a wider window, so that’ll go on for even longer and players will pull out. South Africa have also pulled out of a bilateral series coming up in white-ball cricket which could cost them qualification to the World Cup, and that is a big deal.
Could England have convinced him to stay?
Maybe you could say to Stokes, ‘just have the time off that you need. If you need to miss any 50-over bilateral tournaments that’s fine, we understand your workload, but we’d still like to consider you for the major world events’. He’s that much of a player, and so important.
I reckon Ben just doesn’t like holding people back. He said in his statement, he doesn’t want to hold up the place of a team-mate, and I guess he wouldn’t like it the other way round where a team-mate has played all the way through and then suddenly he strolls in for an ICC event.
Anyone that’s seen Ben Stokes, will see he does everything at 100 per cent. He hasn’t bowled that many overs this summer, and I think maybe his body is failing him a little bit.
Also, the pressure of being Test captain is immense. But it’s the best job in the world and Stokes has won four from four.
You’ve got to remember that Ben, before taking the job, had to take a break from the game for his mental wellbeing. Even when you’re winning, there are so many things when you become captain that fall on your plate, and he knows there will be more difficult times ahead.
It’s been a great start, and we all wish it continues but there will be a downturn in form, there will be problems within the team, there will be issues that all end up at the captain’s door.
Half the reasons [for his retirement] will be physical, and half will be mental, and mental in Ben’s case is the fact he can’t do things at 70, 80 per cent.
In a way, I respect him immensely for making that decision because that’s how you want every England cricketer to turn up, giving it everything every single day.
‘Stokes a truly remarkable cricketer’
Rob Key [England’s managing directory of men’s cricket] would have had this discussion with Stokes the moment they met.
They met at Durham even before he was announced [as captain], he went and sat with Ben for ages, found out the place Ben was in mentally and physically and would have mapped out the road ahead.
Sometimes it just hits you. It may have just hit him at the end of the game [against India]; he’s in the dressing room, he’s physically and mentally exhausted and he looks at his schedule coming up and he looks at what he needs to do with that Test match side.
England vs S Africa
July 19, 2022, 12:30pm
I’m sure Key would have had conversations with Stokes about trying to do it a different way but in the end it’s Stokes’ decision.
One thing I know is that at Durham, it’s going to be an incredibly emotional day.
He’s not just going to stroll round and do a lap of honour, that is for certain. It’ll be the same Ben Stokes we’ve seen for 104 one-day internationals. He won’t want to make it all about himself.
But, the local lad, in the first game of the series against South Africa, his last game, it will be a sell-out crowd and they will all be standing for Ben because he is a truly remarkable cricketer.
Watch Ben Stokes’ last ODI game for England, against South Africa at Emirates Riverside in Durham, live on Sky Sports Cricket on Tuesday, coverage from 12.30pm.