Boy, that was an absolute screamer. He had pulled that one out of thin air. Former England captain Nasser Hussain ran out of adjectives. He couldn’t believe what he had just seen. In all fairness, none of us could. It was a spectacle. Ben Stokes had caught everybody’s imagination. The 2019 edition of the World Cup was got off to a rocking start.
Back in 2006, when Jon Lewis was in charge of Durham’s second XI, he saw a young Ben Stokes. In an interview with Cricbuzz, Lewis recollects how Stokes nearly ended up killing himself while attempting to win a game of squash against Durham teammate Gordon Muchall.
Early on, Ben Stokes’ hard-hitting ability made him a popular figure inside the dressing room. Soon enough, he was seen rising through the ranks. After a forgettable test debut in the 2nd test of the 2013-14 Ashes series, he notched up a belligerent ton in the 2nd innings of the 3rd Ashes test. England ended up on the losing side, but Ben Stokes had announced his arrival in grand fashion. He kept scoring quickly. Wickets kept tumbling like ninepins, but he kept steamrolling on his way to a stupendous 120.
England lost the match and went on to concede the series, but in Ben Stokes, they had found a gem of a player. Here was a player who could turn the game on its head. The number six conundrum was finally sorted.
Over the years, Ben Stokes’ persona has become one of his biggest ‘weapons’. On the field, he keeps running around. At times, the ball just tends to follow him. He drops dollies but takes some spectacular catches. There are days when he gets out without troubling the scorers. He’s not someone that’ll score 70 odd in every game but will end up turning the game on its head with a 15-ball 30. He’ll follow it up with a couple of wickets. He resides in those small patches of brilliance. He’s eccentric, almost uncontrollable at times, but eccentricity is precisely what makes him lethal. That’s the kind of player Ben Stokes is. You can feel the traces of energy that he leaves behind.
In all fairness, being Ben Stokes isn’t easy. The aggression that surrounds him happens to be a double-edged sword. There are times when aggression and jubilation, and ecstasy can be misunderstood. Don’t worry; it’s pretty much normal. Those tattooed arms make him look like a high-school bully.
Carlos Brathwaite took him to the cleaners during the World T20 final in 2016. Stokes was hit for four consecutive sixes. As a bowler, your confidence is bound to go for a toss, and Ben Stokes’ case happened to be no exception. He was down, but he always had the courage to get up and fight.
2018 saw Ben Stokes diving into the depths of oblivion. After an ugly brawl at a pub in Bristol, this lad from Durham saw his career falling apart like a house on fire. He invited further controversy when he mocked Katie Price’s disabled teenage son. Geeez! Nobody knows what keeps cooking inside his head. Stokes made a lucky escape after he was found ‘not guilty’ of affray. Soon enough, normalcy was restored.
There have been times when controversies have overshadowed his on-field brilliance. One can say he was at the wrong place at the wrong time. Well, he’s no angel. He has made blunders. There are times when his enthusiasm overpowers him, but he’s someone you can always count upon during crucial moments.
To top it all, Ben Stokes is not an attention seeker; he’s a game changer. You can call him aggressive, arrogant, and egoistic. There certainly is no dearth of adjectives. As a viewer, you are free to love him or hate him. He doesn’t care much. He’s a man who lives by the sword and dies by it.