T.S Eliot wrote in The Waste Land : “April is the cruellest month, breeding Lilacs out of the dead land.” If Ben Stokes looks back in time, he might agree. On an April night at humid Kolkata’s grand sporting theatre, the Eden Gardens, the 2016 ICC World Twenty20 final was at its tipping point.
The West Indies needed 19 from the last over and Stokes steamed in to bowl. A few minutes later, he was on his haunches, holding his head and feeling disconsolate. Carlos Brathwaite had just hammered four consecutive sixes to wrest the trophy.
Subsequently Stokes went through his share of trauma and a brawl outside a pub further harmed his reputation. While much water flowed down the Hooghly and the Thames, he evolved. Stokes is now a premier all-rounder and his batting prospers when stress mounts.
In the World Cup final at Lord’s on Sunday, it was Stokes, who kept England in the hunt against New Zealand. His unbeaten 84 and the key runs he scrambled in the super-over proved critical and it was his moment of redemption as Eoin Morgan’s men were crowned the champions. A July night at London proved to be the perfect antidote for the nightmare suffered in Kolkata, three summers ago.
Morgan recognised the effort that Stokes put in and with the back-story being torn between four sixes and fisticuffs, the England captain said: “To come through it is extraordinary. He’s almost superhuman. He has really carried the team and our batting line-up. I know Jos (Buttler) and the partnership was extraordinary, but to bat with the lower order the way he (Stokes) did was incredible. The atmosphere, the emotion that was going through the whole game, he managed to deal with that in an experienced manner.”
Reverting to that distant night when Brathwaite soared and Stokes slumped, Morgan said: “I think a lot of careers would have ended after what happened in Calcutta (Kolkata). But Ben has led the way and on numerous occasions has stood up individually and in a unit for us. He leads the way in training, team meetings and he is an incredible cricketer. He had a huge day out (in the final) and we are thankful for that.”
The wheel has turned for Stokes and he and England are on a high.