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In Stokesy, England believe!

Updated on: 11 February,2024 06:37 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Ian Chappell |

Skipper Ben Stokes has shown himself to be a strong-minded and smart leader. The Three Lions have great faith in him and it shows up both on and off the field

In Stokesy, England believe!

England skipper Ben Stokes (centre) interacts with teammates on Day Two of the second Test against India in Visakhapatnam last week. Pic/Getty Images

Ian ChappellBen Stokes’s aggressive approach to captaincy may have failed to claim victory in a hard-fought second Test, but the five-match series is still wide open at one-all.

Much of England’s success has been attributed to Bazball—the desire to score quickly and tactically rattle the opposition—but this is a misnomer. What Stokes has really done is set out to achieve victory from ball one by playing aggressive cricket in all aspects of the game.

Stokes has been extremely smart to adopt such an approach and his aggressive tactics have brought England great success in the win column. It’s an approach that England were extremely slow to adopt but Stokes has shown himself to be a strong-minded and smart leader.

The England team have great belief in Stokes and it shows up both on and off the field. The team capture wickets because they are continually looking for victims and this challenge is accepted by the bowlers. One of the great benefits of this strategy is that it enthuses the best players and they are the ones most likely to affect the final result.

Ben gives something extra

The team also believe that Stokes’s aggression will help them claim the odd unexpected success. This belief is what generally leads to a team producing something extra that leads to a vital wicket. Stokes’s brilliance in the field helped him produce a run out at a crucial time in the first innings and this also helps increase team belief.

The attitude of Stokes has helped the younger players to believe in themselves and this is showing up in their bowling performances. The success of young players Tom Hartley, Rehan Ahmed and Shoaib Bashir is no fluke and epitomises the confidence instilled by Stokes’s approach.

The success of Hartley with both bat and ball should make the limited Jack Leach redundant in the Test side. One of England’s weaknesses has been their spin department, but Stokes’s positive approach suddenly means that slow bowling has a number of candidates.

The success of Ollie Pope at No. 3 and the ascension of Harry Brook as a vital middle-order player also means the batting is potentially much stronger. 

These marked improvements in talent should ensure that in future England pick their strongest available team for the prevailing conditions. England have erred in the past by not picking their best glove man and by often shunning the value of extra pace. Injuries to pace bowlers aside, this should be a thing of the past.

Also Read: England all in but no win!

Skip must field at slip

It will help England enormously if Stokes is once again able to function as an all-rounder as his bowling is a distinct weapon. It would also help if Stokes fielded in the slips, especially to the spinners, as he is one of the best in that position.

The other area where England could improve is in use of the bouncer barrage. It’s often an over-used ploy and it must be remembered, the biggest advantage of the bouncer is the element of surprise.

One personal area Stokes could look at is his own batting. If he were more proactive at the start of each innings it would improve his play. Stokes is a very good batsman, but he’s at his best when he’s looking to score.

India are a strong side and they also have a good leader in Rohit Sharma. They will be greatly strengthened by the recovery from injury of Ravindra Jadeja and KL Rahul, but no Virat Kohli is a blow. Hopefully, the selectors will now stop over-estimating Shreyas Iyer’s batting ability, but learn to value Kuldeep Yadav’s wicket-taking capability more.

As the home side, India should eventually win a tough series, but it has a real battle on its hands. England under the aggressive leadership of Stokes is a far cry from the poorly captained Joe Root team that capitulated against spin on their last tour of the country. 

This India versus England contest is shaping up to be as it should—a tough five-match encounter between two talented sides.

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