What is the rarest breed of cricketers? This question can sprawl a debate for a few hours. Answers could range from a mystery spinner to a Chinaman; some may say bowlers with weird actions. There are a few options, but the oldest rarity in cricket has to be all-rounders. Earlier all-rounders would be known to bat and bowl, but today, we add fielding to the mix as well. And, this breed, don’t come in aplenty. Finding a brilliant all-rounder who can win you matches in all departments of the game is like finding a needle in a haystack.
The world has known several legendary all-rounders like Sir Garfield Sobers, Kapil Dev, Ian Botham, Imran Khan to name a few from yesteryears. More recently, we have had the likes of Jacques Kallis, Andrew Flintoff and Dwayne Bravo. Some teams have mentioned how important the modern-day 3-dimensional cricketer can be during pressure situations.
One such all-rounder who is on the path of coining his name as a legendary cricketer is one of Rajasthan Royals’ own, England’s World Cup winning and Ashes hero, Ben Stokes. The burly all-rounder made his international debut in August 2011. He had built a reputation to bowl the heavy ball, smash some big hits and pluck some blinders out of thin air. Very soon, cricket fans around the world witnessed his capabilities as a three-dimensional cricketer.
Stokes made his Test debut during England’s dismal Ashes tour, Down Under in 2013-14. In what was a forgetful series for the English, Stokes emerged as a major positive. He scored a magnificent century at Perth and the cricketing fraternity took notice of his immense talent.
Stokes cemented his place in all three formats of the game and turned into England’s go-to all-rounder. His 258 in Cape Town was a treat to watch. It was a ground the Proteas called their fortress, but Stokes’ exploits kept the South Africans at bay. Along the way, Stokes has had his share of disappointments as well. The WT20 final in 2016 was a day he would love to forget.
Stokes had a wonderful Vivo Indian Premier League (IPL) debut season as well. Playing for Rising Pune Supergiants, he won the award for the Most Valuable Player in the tenth edition of the IPL. He was then picked by Rajasthan Royals, and has been an integral part of ourteam. It was here that England’s golden trio of Stokes, Buttler and Archer were brought together for the first time in the same playing XI.
2019, we can safely say has been Stokes year, so far. He has been making the headlines for all the right reasons. Stokesy has turned into the player he promised to be when he broke on to the international circuit.
It all started with the opening game of the World Cup. Stokes made an impact with the bat, taking England to a formidable total. He then took an absolute screamer in the deep that remains etched in everyone’s memories. Additionally, the all-rounder contributed with a couple of wickets, completing his supreme 3-d capabilities.
Stokesy went on to pile up 5 80+ scores through the tournament and bowled some vital spells from time to time. In tough games against Sri Lanka and Australia, Stokes put on a single-handed display of grit and power, nearly taking the English home on both occasions. He drew the best card for the greatest of all games – the World Cup final at Lord’s.
England were in trouble, but Stokes was never known to give up on the winning from anywhere attitude, something we pride on at Rajasthan Royals as well. He stuck in right till the end, and took the game into the Super Over. As they say it, the rest is history. Ben Stokes was England’s World Cup winning hero from 14thJuly 2019 onwards.
Stokes wasn’t done, just yet. England’s next challenge was the Ashes, and they faltered during the first Test, as Smith’s twin centuries helped Australia to a 1-0 lead. While a lot of the second Test was lost to rain, Stokes ensured that he stamped his authority. Once again, he bailed England out of some trouble, scoring an unbeaten 115 to allow his team to set a target for the Aussies. The Test ended in a draw, but Stokes’ form was there for everyone to see.
England had all but lost the third Test at Headingly. They were bowled out for a paltry 67 in their first innings and were staring at a massive target. Stokes bowled a spell full of vigour and determination to break through Australia’s middle order and enter the tail. England were set a target of 359 runs to keep the Ashes alive.
At start of play on Day 4, England seemed to be in a rather comfortable position with the score reading 156/3. Root was at the crease on 75 and Ben Stokes was on 2.Root lost his wicket early on in the day, but Bairstow and Stokes kept England steady in the first session. The tide though, tilted in Australia’s favour when Bairstow, Buttler and Woakes fell in quick succession, in the space of 7 overs. In no time, they were reduced to 286/9, needing another 73 runs to win.
The Aussies were probably dreaming of post-match celebrations and retaining the urn. However, one man stood in their way – Benjamin Andrew Stokes.With Jack Leach at the other end, Stokes had only one option; to take the attack to the Aussie bowlers. Nathan Lyon was bowling incredibly, while the quicks were hunting for the last wicket from the other end.
Stokes nurtured the strike and played some audacious shots to pick up boundaries. At times, he took the unorthodox route to find the fence. His switch-hit off Lyon was simply jaw-dropping. The equation kept shrinking in England’s favour, while Jack Leach hung in there, only picking up his first run very late in the partnership.
What’s cricket without some good and bad luck anyway? Towards the end or the chase, Leach survived a run-out scare, as Lyon fumbled at the non-striker’s end. Had he collected the ball, it would have been all-over for the English. Stokes waited for an opportunity to close the game, and he did it in style, smashing a Cummins delivery through cover to seal victory for England.
The emotions thereafter were raw, pure and loud. Stokes went down with his arms spread apart. And adrenalin rushing through his veins It was an innings of a lifetime. They all said, ‘Stokes has come of age’, The crowd rose to the legend of Ben Stokes, the man who played one of the most iconic Ashes knocks ever.
Ben Stokes is a force of nature that can’t be stopped easily. You give him the toughest situation, and he will find a way to come out of it. With two more Tests remaining, and the Ashes very much alive, Stokes will play a key role for England, in all three departments of the game. Watch out for some more impactful knocks and spells from this legend. We hope this rich vein of form continues and Stokesy continues to dazzle and grow from strength to strength. We are proud to have this rare breed in the Rajasthan Royals family.