Ben Stokes is relishing his return to international cricket after being added to England’s squad for the upcoming Ashes series in Australia.
Stokes was initially unavailable when England announced their touring party for Australia, having spent the last three months on an indefinite hiatus to recover from a finger injury while also prioritising his mental health.
However, Stokes declared last month that he was ready to return to competitive cricket, and England’s talismanic all-rounder was subsequently added to Joe Root’s squad.
Speaking exclusively to Sky Sports on a shoot with adidas, Stokes paid tribute to his support network and looked ahead to England’s impending trip down under.
“I just took it day by day, step by step. I had fantastic support around me to help me through that, and I’m just excited to get out there,” Stokes told Sky Sports’ Tim Thornton.
“I cannot wait to see everyone, and I’ve just really enjoyed my training the last couple of weeks, so it’s good.”
Having fractured his finger during the Indian Premier League in April, Stokes was still in discomfort ahead of his planned comeback in July, and, after undergoing a second operation on October 4, he has since resumed training.
“I had a lot of scar tissue build-up around my joint and my tendons so he [the surgeon] removed all that, which thankfully allowed me to actually get some movement and took away the frustration in terms of pain as well.
“I’m glad to come out the other side of that. I think it’s important for anyone [to get that emotional reset]. Whether it be a job or their day-to-day life, it’s important for everyone.”
Stokes has been central to England’s most recent successes – he played a starring role in their remarkable World Cup triumph in 2019, before producing one of the greatest innings of all time in an astonishing Ashes Test at Headingley just months later.
However, the 30-year-old has played down the significance of his return, and believes England are well equipped to challenge for a first Ashes victory on Australian soil for over a decade.
“One player doesn’t make a team, and although I know I’m a senior member of that team over the last few years, every member of that team is just as important as each other,” he added.
“We have got a huge amount of experience in our squad, although we’ve got some young guys who are still learning their way in Test cricket.
“We’ve got the likes of Jimmy (Anderson), Broady (Stuart Broad) who have obviously been there, done that. Rooty – fantastic leader and England’s greatest-ever batter, so we’ve got everything to come back at Australia with what they’ve got.
“You are playing at the highest level possible and the Ashes – for an Englishman in Australia, that is the pinnacle of Test cricket. It is the only series that is almost like a World Cup, because they are such rivals.”
That rivalry was renewed at the T20 World Cup, where England stormed to a comprehensive eight-wicket win over Australia with 50 balls to spare, to move to the brink of semi-final qualification.
“The first full of game of cricket I actually watched since I took my break was England vs Australia,” Stokes revealed.
“I actually text Jos (Buttler) saying: ‘I’m glad I chose that game to be the first one’, because it’s always great seeing England put in a performance like that, but even better against the Aussies.”
Buttler smashed an unbeaten 71 from 32 balls in that contest, before registering his first T20I hundred against Sri Lanka in Sharjah on Monday, which inspired them to an impressive 26-run victory.
Stokes believes Buttler is “without doubt” the best batter England have ever produced in the limited-overs format, but he insists the best is yet to come from England’s wicketkeeper in red-ball cricket.
“He is just phenomenal. That is pretty much how I sum Jos up,” said Stokes. “He is consistently getting better with the red ball. I think you’ve seen it with his performances last summer and this summer.
“He is now able to transfer between the three formats and still be consistent, so I think the best is yet to come from Jos in Test cricket.”
Stokes is one of several big-name absentees from England’s T20 World Cup squad, with Jofra Archer and Sam Curran also ruled out due to injury.
Eoin Morgan’s men are bidding to become the first side to hold both the Cricket World Cup and T20 World Cup titles at the same time, and the Durham all-rounder is backing his team-mates to create more history.
“England, Pakistan and New Zealand have probably been the three strongest teams so far, but knockout stages in tournaments is where the pressure really comes on.
“Who can handle that pressure the most? We have done that for a long time now as an England team, being in pressure situations, and we seem to come out on top.”
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