‘I let the team down’: Ben Stokes offers brutal assessment of his efforts in England’s Ashes debacle… and pledges to ‘give everything’ to the Test team in upcoming West Indies series
- Ben Stokes has admitted he feels he ‘let the team down’ in England’s Ashes disaster
- Stokes revealed that ‘everything seemed harder’ and that he wasn’t himself in Australia
- But the 30-year-old is ready to ‘give everything’ for England against West Indies
The sight of Ben Stokes punishing himself by running around the outfield at Antigua’s Coolidge Ground after another long hot day in the field was a significant one.
Here was England’s most important player readying himself for his own red-ball reset.
It came at the end of England’s drawn warm-up game on Friday before Tuesday’s first Test against West Indies and was both a reminder of how important Stokes is to their post-Ashes relaunch and a sign of his own determination to be at the heart of it.
Ben Stokes has stated that he ‘let the team down’ during England’s Ashes disaster last winter
Then Stokes gave an honest assessment of his own shortcomings in the Ashes debacle and pledged to give everything to stop the Test decline that sees England needing to stem the bleeding here.
‘We’ve had some honest reflections on Australia not only as a team but as individuals and one of my reflections is that I felt I let the team down with more than just my performances,’ said a man who returned to the side after a long break to allow his broken finger to heal and protect his mental health.
‘I would have liked to have been in better physical shape in Australia. When I look back I felt I let myself down but the thing that really grinds me the most and hurts me the most is that I let a lot of other people down. I never want to feel that way again.’
But how did he let the team down? Yes, Stokes was not at his best but then not many were. And he was returning after more than four months without cricket. Even he could not just flick a switch and become Super Ben again.
Stokes said he ‘wasn’t able to impact the game’ in Australia and ‘everything seemed harder’
‘I just wasn’t me,’ said Stokes. ‘I wasn’t able to impact the game as I would like to or how I normally do and everything just seemed harder. I had a long break which never helps. I couldn’t do much in three or four months so I was always behind. But I don’t think I came back too early.
‘From a cricket place, I was ready to go out there. There was no pressure put on me from anybody. It was an individual decision and it would be making excuses to say I came back too soon.’
It is from that sense of regret Stokes is now putting everything into getting back to peak fitness and sacrificing his contract with Rajasthan Royals in this year’s IPL to put his integral role as Joe Root’s vice-captain and talisman first.
‘I’ve had a chance to have a good look at things and, when it came down to it, the real thing that gets me excited out of all three formats is Test cricket,’ he said.
Stokes said he was ready to ‘give everything’ to the Test team in the series against West Indies
‘That was a big decision for me to come out of the IPL, to make sure I’m able to give everything I possibly can to this Test team.
‘There’s a massive time ahead, a lot of cricket to play and you just have to look at the schedules at times and think what’s the most important thing. Test cricket is the most important for me.’
They are highly encouraging words for the red-ball future and ones he hopes will provide an example to players who will have the additional burden of trying to prove Andrew Strauss was right to embark on this trip without Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad.
‘It’s going to feel different but it’s an opportunity for senior guys to help build something with new talent,’ said Stokes. ‘There’s been a big change with Stuart and Jimmy but, all respect to them and I mean this in the nicest way, they’re not here. What we can concentrate on are guys who are. We’re missing that experience and class they bring. But we can’t change that. All we can do is bring the energy we have got and that’s what we’re going to do.’
While Stokes is back bowling, it appears Ollie Robinson (right) will not play in the first Test
It was typical to see Stokes bowling ahead of schedule and taking a wicket with his first ball back after the side strain suffered in Australia. But the original plan was for him not to bowl in the first Test and he was adamant he will not overdo it. As ever, the balance of the side will depend on whether Stokes feels he can contribute with the ball and, if he does manage a few overs, Jack Leach’s chances of playing will improve.
What does seem certain is Ollie Robinson, who at Coolidge suffered a recurrence of the back injury he sustained in the final Ashes Test, will not be fit. That is not a good look for England after they picked a bowler for this tour criticised for his fitness levels by bowling coach Jon Lewis.
But one man who is fit again is Stokes. And he is determined to settle some unfinished business.
England just failed to pull off the greatest run chase in Women’s World Cup history as the defending champions lost to Australia yesterday.
With both teams wearing black armbands to pay tribute to Shane Warne and Rod Marsh, Australia set Heather Knight’s team an unlikely 311 to win, only to see England hammer their way to within 12 runs of a famous victory thanks to Nat Sciver’s superb hundred.
‘I’m really impressed with how things went,’ said Knight, whose side next play West Indies on Wednesday. ‘It’s not the end of the world, losing the first game.’
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