Former England captain Michael Atherton has welcomed the return of Ben Stokes to the ODI squad, suggesting that the allure of World Cup 2023 might have played a significant role in the all-rounder's decision to reverse his retirement.
Stokes, who last played an ODI in July last year, took a break from the format to focus on Test cricket and address injury concerns.
Speaking with Sky Sports, Atherton expressed his enthusiasm for Stokes' comeback and highlighted the powerful pull of the World Cup:
“The World Cup's irresistible temptation seems to have lured him back. It's great news for England and their fans to have such a talented cricketer returning. Despite retiring due to scheduling issues and his role as Test captain, the allure of the World Cup was too strong.”
Atherton speculated that Stokes' limited appearances in World Cups – only one so far in his career – might have influenced his decision to make himself available for the 2023 edition:
“He missed the 2015 World Cup, and now he's at a point in his career where he's probably thinking, ‘I've only played in one World Cup, and I can't let the opportunity go by again.' The selectors had no choice but to pick him, given his immense contribution to any team.”
Ben Stokes Selected as a batter
However, Atherton expressed concern over Stokes' fitness, considering he's been chosen as a specialist batter:
“They've selected him as a batter, indicating there might be concerns about his bowling. This was evident from Luke Wright's press conference after the squad announcement.”
Stokes' bowling has been limited recently due to knee issues. During the Ashes series, he bowled just 29 overs. Having taken 74 wickets in his 105 ODIs, his bowling prowess has been a valuable asset for England.
England's series against New Zealand will kick off with four T20Is on August 30, followed by the ODI series starting on September 8.
Atherton emphasized that Stokes would be eager to defend England's World Cup title in the 2023 edition in India, given his pivotal role in their victory in 2019:
“Stokes played a central role in England's 2019 World Cup win. The chance to defend it is probably his last shot in a 50-over World Cup, given the four-year cycle. It's a momentous opportunity.”
Stokes was the Player of the Match in World Cup 2019 Final
In the 2019 World Cup final against New Zealand, Stokes emerged as the Player of the Match for his outstanding performance. He scored a crucial 84* in a tense chase and played a defining role in the Super Over.
With his batting and bowling prowess, Stokes was a standout performer in the 2019 edition, scoring 465 runs and taking seven wickets. At 32 years old, and with his retirement reversal, the upcoming World Cup could likely be his final appearance in the 50-over format.
England's campaign will begin with a rematch of the last World Cup final against New Zealand on October 5 in Ahmedabad, marking the start of a thrilling journey for the team and fans alike.