The Lord’s was equivalent to a blast furnace. The sun wasn’t beating down, yet the atmosphere was heated up. The packed house intensified the ambience. There was no running away, definitely not for Ben Stokes. He had the home crowd behind him, but then the onus was on the all-rounder. He seemed to wage a lone battle with New Zealand trying to get him on his knees at the Home of Cricket.
Even as he wasn’t running out of ammunition, his team was, wickets became gold dust. The women’s team scripted glory at the very venue in 2017. The question was whether Stokes had the mental tenacity to see his team through. It seemed unlikely, but the fortunes started turning towards Stokes, who’s a New Zealander by birth. England won the World Cup, it was a victory of sorts for the cricketer as well.
Taking Stokes into the past
It was jubilation for Stokes at the iconic Lord’s. The triumph would’ve tasted alike honeydew for him, the tears rolling down his cheeks narrated an entire story – a tale, which dates back to September 2017. Back then, his life was in the doldrums, devoid of any proper direction, though he already had the pride of representing England. And then one fine morning, his name made the headlines – in a negative way.
Stokes threw punches outside a Bristol Nightclub, never did he realize that the same blows are being returned to him by an enigma, named life, trying to knock him down. He broke his little-finger, adding insult to injury and had to face an indefinite suspension, which made him miss the Ashes. 2018 started on a happy note as his ban got lifted and he resumed his bouts on the cricket field versus the Black Caps.
Did Stokes return? Numbers would reveal so. In the second match on his comeback, he got the Player of the Match award for two wickets and an unbeaten 63 in Mount Maunganui. But what the figures wouldn’t display is his battles, he was fighting within himself. A part of his soul was bleeding profusely in an attempt to prove himself innocent in the cursed night that left a scar on him, maybe a permanent one.
The return of Ben Stokes
Ben Stokes. (Photo Source: Twitter)
Next up was August 6, the trial date, the last roll of the dice for Stokes. The court proceedings meant that he was deprived of playing the Lord’s Test against India. Amidst the off-field sagas, Ben was cool as a cucumber in the first match and delivered the killer blows with a four-wicket haul, helping the Three Lions to a 31-run victory, most importantly a 1-0 lead in the series, defending 194 in the fourth innings.
It showed that Stokes isn’t someone to allow external hurdles to turn detrimental to his cricketing endeavour. Apart from winning the second Test, the English fans prayed to almighty for Stokes’ well-being. In the hearing, things looked ugly as Stokes was being referred to as a ‘football hooligan’. The Christchurch-born was accused off bullying a young couple and he was looking further down the barrel.
Just when destiny was set to engulf Stokes, the rub of the green turned towards him. In a week’s time, he was cleared of affray. His wife Clare Ratcliff shielded him during the turbulent times. Following all the hustle and bustle, he returned for the last three Tests. England won the series 4-1. Above all Ben Stokes was back in the business. Not to forget the 11.5 crores, he fetched back in January at the IPL auction.
Ben Stokes – Version 2.0
Ben Stokes. (Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images)
At the time of the travails, Stokes couldn’t have been blamed for thinking that he may miss the bus for the World Cup. Fortunately, for him, he kept finding the missing pieces of the puzzle in his journey and kept taking giant strides. Fast-forwarding to the Grand Finale, it wasn’t a smooth ride for Stokes by any means. The left-hander played and missed off Colin de Grandhomme to make a jittery start to his knock.
But then, he had the audacity to slog-sweep Trent Boult off his pads over the cow-corner in the last over. He seemed vulnerable, he was gasping for breath, but not out of it. The knock of 84 summed up the expedition Stokes had in the last couple of years. He looked drained, his body language suggested so, but despite that, he was even trusted to bat in the Super Over where he smacked Boult for a boundary.
This version of Stokes doesn’t get overawed like the previous one; this Stokes knows the art of manufacturing moments of sheer brilliance; this Stokes is matured and doesn’t drop the gun easily. The numbers are a testament to the change, Stokes has brought in himself over the time being. In the first 71 innings of his ODI career, the batter had three scores above the 80s, all of which were centuries.
But in 10 innings of the World Cup, he got four innings above the 80s, in which he remained unbeaten twice. His average of 66.42 in the mega event transcends his career average of 40.63 by a country mile. The average was also the highest among the Englishmen in the tournament with Jason Roy’s 63.28 being second.
Ben Stokes has scripted his own destiny, he has made fortunes bow down in front of him. He’s all but 28, and there’s no stopping him, so much so that even darkness would think twice before encircling him.
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