One of the best all-rounders in modern cricket, England Test captain Ben Stokes announced his retirement from one-day international cricket earlier this year due to a hard workload. At home in Durham, he played his final ODI against South Africa. Since he announced publicly that he was quitting ODI cricket, there has been discussion about the cricket schedule and how to manage players’ workloads to ensure that they play as many international matches as possible.
The fundamental challenge for bilateral cricket is to remain relevant in the face of the rise of numerous T20 leagues around the world. According to left-handed batsman Ben Stokes, T20 cricket is sort of turning into a “business,” but Test cricket will always be the best, and his major responsibility is to advance the game’s longest format. Earlier, Ravi Shastri, the former head coach of Team India, urged that just 5–6 teams play the longest format in order to maintain competition. “To a certain extent (whether he agrees with Shastri) but also no. You look at the way franchise cricket is going now, there are a lot of franchises that have multiple teams in the world across different countries. Obviously, India, CPL, and South Africa now, you see people having multiple franchise teams,” Stokes said in response to an NDTV question during a select media call organized by Amazon Prime, who will be streaming his documentary ‘Ben Stokes: Phoenix From The Ashes’ from August 26.
“You can say, T20 is now becoming a business for certain people but it is obviously great for the game that things like these are happening, you know it gives a lot more opportunity, there are more opportunities for players than there were 15 years ago. Life outside of cricket, security, and the money that is involved in the sport now is a lot more than it was 15-20 years ago,” he went on to say. “So, there is also that which needs to be looked at, professional sport in itself is a very short career, not only do you want to be playing the best cricket as long as you can but you also need to think about the future. If you want to stop playing cricket that could be it but Test cricket, I do not see it going away,” he asserted. “I am a huge ambassador for the format, it is the pinnacle of cricket. The purest form of it. Yeah, I can never see Test match cricket going anywhere even when T20 cricket is sort of changing the face of the sport but Test match cricket is still the pinnacle of the sport,” the new England Test skipper said. “And I know that even the other biggest players in the world feel exactly the same way. So, I almost feel like, you know, we people have a responsibility to keep that message going out there that Test cricket is not dead. For certain, in our opinion, it is not,” he added.
Stokes discussed his mental health issues in his upcoming documentary. It is significant to remember that Stokes had taken a vacation from cricket in 2021 in order to care for his mental health, and he had also missed the T20 World Cup. “When people say how hard it was? No, it was not because when I decided, yeah that is something I want to do, in terms of making a documentary, I specifically said that I do not want this documentary to be all about making myself look good. It is an opportunity for me to know, just show the people who I am. I think very rarely, sportsmen are able to do that. Sportsmen have painted a picture of what people see of them on the TV, whether they are playing or in media, press conferences. It is very rare that you get to see them in their own space, where they are comfortable in the environment,” said Stokes.
“I felt responsible and I was very clear about how there must be everything in the documentary, not just make me look good. I have had so many things happening to me in my career, not just in cricket, but personal life as well. I felt if I did not share that, then people would be like why he didn’t talk about that? It has been such a public thing, right from T20 World Cup 2016 to the Bristol incident to the break I took because of my mental health. If I did not cover that, then I thought I would not be doing any justice. I just wanted to make sure everything was covered in the documentary as well as it could be,” he added. Virat Kohli, a batsman for India, was among the first to offer Stokes his congratulations on a successful career after hearing of his decision to retire from ODI cricket. Stokes was referred to as the “best competitor” by Kohli.
Talking about Kohli, the star all-rounder said: ” “Look, sport is, you know, it is an amazing contest, not just between teams but you also have those between individuals. But at the end of the day, there is always respect between oppositions, between individuals. It is just not in our sport, an example, you look at Novak Djokovic and Nick Kyrgios. They have had a huge rivalry but still, at the end of the day, you know there is respect between professional athletes. That is the same for all sports, you are always going to have a battle and you will always be trying your hardest to win the game but at the end of it, there is that respect.” “To be honest, we do not come across each other, outside of cricket. Obviously, we play international cricket against each other, IPL cricket, in the time we have spent each other, it is fine, when you are out on the field, it is me against the opposition or me against any individual. You got to separate the two, the on-field competition, and also the off-field, it is not a case of where we are little children and if we do have a bit of a go at each other on the field, as soon as we are back off the field, it is back to two individuals who are in the same room together and it is fine,” he added.