The marvellous ways of Ben Stokes

by Rex Clementine

All-rounders as England captains hasn’t been the most brightest idea in recent times. Ian Botham was handed the reins when his popularity was sky high but before long he stepped down letting Mike Brearley handle that tough ask. So was Andrew Flintoff. Freddie had become an household name after he had helped England end the Ashes drought but as successor to Michael Vaughan he struggled to get the team perform. Given that backdrop, there were doubts as to how successful the Stokes era would be, especially as England had Jos Buttler as Joe Root’s understudy.

Stokes, however, has won many admirers. He has built this English team in his own image, urging them to play without fear. The aggression that England are showing with the bat is scaring the opponents. When Dean Elgar arrived in England for the summer, he was quite confident that South Africa had all bases covered to beat England. They started off well too winning at Lord’s. But England played out of their skins at Old Trafford and The Oval to secure the series.

Babar Azam in the same way would have been confident of winning the series as England returned to Pakistan after 16 years but were whitewashed 3-0. Pat Cummins right now must be a worried man.

Clive Lloyd’s Caribbean kings threw caution to wind and made life difficult for the bowlers. Stokes’ England are not only doing the same but they are scoring at a rate that their bowlers have been given enough times to dismiss sides twice even on the flattest surfaces. Lloyd though had a superior attack. Stokes hasn’t but his batters are making amends.

For batters to go about their business with the confidence they do, Stokes has given them assurance that their places aren’t in danger and when that assurance is there, batters tend to play with freedom and that mental adjustment has resulted in the aggression that’s shown.

Given the superb job that Ollie Pope did behind the stumps, Stokes would have been tempted to go with him for the final game too for it helps him to balance the side and most teams have gone that direction nowadays opting for a Rishabh Pant over Wriddhiman Saha or a Mohammad Rizwan over a Sarfraz Ahmed. But there are some chances in cricket that need to be grabbed and it can only by done by flawless keepers like Ben Foakes. It proved to be crucial as some of the dismissals that Foakes effected were out of the ordinary.

Foakes is no mug with the bat either. He may be not as accomplished as Pope but what he does his raly round the tail and give England decent totals. The first five England wickets in the first innings in Karachi produced 145 runs. But the wicketkeeper stitched some valuable partnerships with the lower middle order and the tail to give England over 200 runs and a vital first innings lead of 50 runs.

You need forceful leaders like Stokes to make those tough calls. Some tough calls pay dividends. Stokes has been lucky so far. Some won’t and we will see how he reacts when that happens.

Stokes is also wining lot of admirers having donated all his earnings for Pakistan’s flood relief fund. There can’t be many people who dislike the England captain at the moment.