Ben Stokes has been part of England’s ODI set up since 2011, but he hasn’t featured in a World Cup yet.
Now, as England gets ready to host the World Cup, which begins from May 30, the 27-year-old is looking forward to the tournament.
Considered a game changer in the shorter format, Stokes feels that the Eoin Morgan-led side has all the potential to win the title.
During his stint with Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League, Stokes spoke to Sportstar on a range of topics…
The World Cup starts right after the IPL. So, for a player, how much of a mental shift does it require to go back to a 50-over format from T20s?
We have the series against Pakistan before the World Cup starts, so we have got time to get back into the swing of things with 50-over cricket. The most difficult thing is adjusting to Twenty20 cricket, since you haven’t been playing it all year, while you have been consistently playing 50-over and Test cricket through the year.
So actually, making the change to the T20 format is going to be a lot harder than going back and playing the old formats.
With England being the host, the expectations are high from all of you in the World Cup. What are the areas you will focus on to get into the mould?
You always work on your game. Every little aspect of it: batting, bowling, fielding. Everyone has been doing out here (IPL), so back in England it wouldn’t make any difference.
With a strong unit, the England batsmen have developed a tendency of going after the bowler right from the start. In conditions where it could swing and seam, how easy or difficult will it be for the side?
I think England’s pitches for the one-day matches and the ones around the world in general are pretty good. Obviously, we have the home advantage, so we know the conditions better than anyone else. The thing about the World Cup is that as the tournament goes on, conditions can change. The wickets can get a bit dry, slower and so you’ve to go into every game with a fresh mindset in terms of what you are going to get, because pitches are subjected to wear and tear and generally get slower and slower, so you’ve just got to adapt to all the different situations you’ve got.
Both you and Jos Buttler have been playing together for the same team, in international cricket and IPL. How much does it help in understanding the mindset and the situation?
When you play with someone for such a long period of time, you understand each other’s game. Especially if you have to bat together, you just sort of subconsciously know what’s going on with the other guy. Sharing the dressing room and sharing the field so often, that’s all what it comes to, you don’t really think much about when you’re out there together just because you know (each other well).
In the just-concluded IPL, Rajasthan Royals was initially led by Ajinkya Rahane. This is the second time you played under his leadership. What are your thoughts on him?
When you play all around the world, play in different teams, you get exposed to different types of captains, whether that’s in terms of personality, the way they lead the team — everybody is different. Jinx is a man of few words but he goes out there and gets the job done in his own way. Not everybody is the same. I have played under Alastair Cook, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan, Ajinkya Rahane — Jos’ even been captain — and they have all been different. There is not one way that’s right and there’s not one way that’s wrong. Each person has their own way of leadership and and how they choose to run their teams. Every captain has had his success and criticism, not always but mostly, and it goes back to the person in charge. As I said, everybody is different and everybody has a different way of leading.
In the IPL, you get to face a lot of Indian players and can gauge their preparation levels ahead of the World Cup. Does it help?
Not just the Indian players, a few overseas players from different nations are also around here (IPL), so you get to play them and they also get to play us. So in this day and age now, with the technology around and available for each team to look at individual players as compared to 20 years ago, things are a lot different. You can go into a series of video analysis and also we get the added advantage of playing against each other now. That’s the great thing about the IPL. It not only brings the Indian players, but also the overseas guys from all around the world to one competition. I’m sure that everybody is going to keep a close eye on every player involved in the World Cup and they will be going in there with one thought, on how to play against a certain bowler or how to get a batsman out.
How are you managing the workload?
There is a bigger picture as well. You obviously want to come out here and play every single game. But schedule, travel and other things around the IPL can bring along niggles to anybody. You are playing two games in three days, sometimes you have three games in five days, there is travel in between. So it is pretty hectic and you have to manage the workload and manage injury and stuff like that. And if you don’t, then might end up with an injury. You don’t want to miss out on the World Cup.
England starts as one of the favourites. How are things shaping up?
We have played some great cricket over the last three-four years; we don’t get too ahead of ourselves, we stay very grounded. We just focus on ourselves and on the strengths of our team. We know if we play to the best of our abilities then the opposition will find it difficult to beat us. I think that comes from trying to focus solely on our team. We see a lot of teams which focus a lot of energy on other teams, what they are about and where their strengths are. But what we try do is just focus on ourselves. If we can go out there and execute everything that we try to do then at the end of the day, the result will take care of itself. We just try to focus on ourselves and not worry too much about what the other teams have to offer.
In a tournament like the World Cup, how important is fielding?
I’m a huge believer (that), obviously, batting and bowling is, sort of, the main focus for winning in the game of cricket. But fielding is an important aspect for teams being consistent as well, because if you’re a good fielding team and you can save 15-20 runs each game, then you are doing a really good job. Especially nowadays, if you’re a little bit of a liability on the field, then I think the selectors will think twice to pick you in the side. So, as the England team, we put a huge emphasis on our fielding levels and our standard. So, fielding is very important. It’s good to see now that fielding is such a big part of preparation for teams around the world.
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