London, June 1 (IANS) With England starting a highly-anticipated home summer through a one-off game against Ireland at the Lord’s, Test head coach Brendon McCullum stated skipper Ben Stokes can manage to have a tremendous impact even if he doesn’t bowl a single delivery.
Stokes suffered a flare-up of a left knee injury during the drawn Test series in New Zealand in February. Since then, he has bowled just one over in one of his two matches for Chennai Super Kings (CSK), in IPL 2023, where his appearances were limited due to various niggles.
Ahead of the Ireland Test, Stokes had said his left knee was in a much better position than it was in New Zealand and is trying to give himself the best opportunity to play a role with the ball in England’s home summer.
“The skipper writes his own scripts and this is the biggest stage you can probably get. He has got something up his sleeve. He is going to have to push through the pain barrier at times but we know he is not afraid of that. We just have to make sure we monitor it. If anything, it might be that we have to pull him back at times and make sure there is longevity in there as well.”
“He has a long life to live after cricket and I want to make sure he can do all the things he can. If he doesn’t bowl a ball he will still have a tremendous impact in this series. He is an absolute beauty and we are so lucky to have him as our captain,” McCullum was quoted as saying by Sky Sports.
Since Stokes and McCullum took over as captain and coach of the Test side last year, England have embraced an ultra-aggressive brand of playing the longest format of the game, leading to ten wins in 12 games against New Zealand, India, South Africa and Pakistan.
Reflecting on his time at the helm till now, McCullum said seeing the growth of players in the last 12 months has given him huge joy. “The real fun for us as coaches is working with the guys, building those relationships and getting to know them as people. Seeing what their life is like and working with them on their skills.”
“Whatever happens on the field happens — it’s not like we don’t care but it’s almost secondary. There will be times where the players succeed and times where they fail but it’s other stuff where you see them grow as cricketers and humans which is where the real fun is.”
After England play a four-day Test against Ireland at Lord’s, they will play the first Ashes Test against Australia at Edgbaston from June 16-20. It will be followed by the rest of the games taking place at Lord’s (June 28-July 2), Headingley (July 6-10), Old Trafford (July 19-23) and The Oval (July 27-31).
Australia haven’t won an Ashes series in England since 2001 while the Stokes-led side is looking to regain the urn for the first time since 2015. McCullum, the former New Zealand captain, signed off by saying there isn’t a better stage than the Ashes for his England to play the brand of cricket which has given them rollicking success.
“The fact that it is the biggest stage you can play in is great. It’s better. You have to be prepared to marry yourself to a position and that for us is freeing guys up to play the style of cricket that gives them the greatest amount of satisfaction and could transfer to results.”
“You want to have fun, you want to enjoy yourself, you want to lose yourself and be part of something. You might not achieve it but what a great opportunity. What better stage?”