Ben Stokes has hinted at a possible reversal of his retirement from one‑day cricket after an admission that the World Cup defence in India next year is tempting.
Stokes called time on his 50-over career in July, citing the additional responsibilities of Test captaincy and a bulging schedule that has made it “unsustainable” for the 31‑year‑old all-rounder to represent his country and give 100% in all three formats.
However, a leading role in England’s recent T20 World Cup triumph in Australia not only furthered his reputation as a matchwinner but, coming after a 12-month absence from that format, suggested his dropping in solely for tournament cricket is workable. Jos Buttler, the white-ball captain, would certainly welcome such a return. Rob Key, England’s director of men’s cricket, tried to float the possibility as England prepared for their Test tour of Pakistan in Abu Dhabi last week and, though rebuffed at the time, it appears the door is not necessarily double-bolted.
“Keysy pulled me to the side in the UAE and as soon as he said the words ‘50-over World Cup’ I just walked away,” said Stokes in the buildup to the first Test in Rawalpindi, the start of which may be delayed after a number of the tourists were laid low by a virus.
“At the moment, being out here, my focus is solely on this series. But it’s one of those things. Who knows how I might feel towards a World Cup at the time? Going to a World Cup is an amazing thing to do, to represent your country.”
As it stands, Stokes faces a lopsided 2023 – seven months of intense action followed by five that are sparse. After Pakistan comes a two-Test series in New Zealand in February, followed by the Indian Premier League – a tournament for which Stokes will put his name forward after missing this year’s edition.
Once back from the IPL in late May, Stokes would head straight into captaining a one-off, four-day Test against Ireland at Lord’s from 1 June and then the small matter of a compact five-Test Ashes series that runs until 30 July.
Thereafter, with England focusing on 50-over cricket before the World Cup starts in October, things thin out for Stokes, with four Twenty20s against New Zealand at the end of the home summer and a five-match T20 series in the Caribbean in December.
It may be that the strains of being an all-rounder – not least a longstanding knee problem – and Test captaincy means this period of extended rest is required; the lure of defending the title he helped secure in 2019 may yet override this.