Ben Stokes joined the Rajasthan Royals (RR) unit after their first few games in the 13th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL). While he started off slowly, he hit a magnificent century in their last game against Mumbai Indians to take his team home against the top-ranked team in the competition.
More than the win, that knock helped silence a lot of people who had been questioning his position in the line-up and if he was the right choice to open the innings despite RR having Jos Buttler in the squad.
Speaking to ANI, Stokes threw light on opening the batting, having one of the best foreign contingent in the competition, adapting to the bubble and most importantly focusing on the process rather than just results.
Having failed to shine in his first few games as an opener, Stokes saw pundits debating his batting number. But the all-rounder says he spoke about his role with the head coach Andrew McDonald and team management way before the season got underway.
“Yeah, I’m really enjoying this new role. I’d had conversations with Macca really long ago now, the IPL usually happens earlier in the year, so we had discussions even before that. I’m really enjoying the new role. It’s something that I’ve sort of always wanted to slowly and gradually get into.
“In the England team, it’s very tough with the amount of quality of batsmen we’ve got, like Jason Roy, Tom Banton, Jonny Bairstow, Alex Hales and all these guys who’re all opening batsmen, so it’s a very hard place to get into. So yeah, really enjoying the opportunity and responsibility I’ve been given here at the Royals,” he said.
But the start wasn’t great and Stokes says it helps when the leadership group has faith in the abilities of a player.
“Having the backing from people making decisions is obviously a big help. Played a lot of cricket and I understand myself as a person now and don’t let it get me down too much. The saying you are as good as your next game is brilliant. Whether you do well or badly, you still got to focus on the next game. If you do well one game doesn’t mean you will do well the next game,” he explained.
Asked about the lack of consistency from the foreign stars barring Jofra Archer, Stokes admitted that doing consistently well is important for a team to succeed. He added that David Millers not finding a place in the XI also speaks about the talent in the squad.
“I think that proves that the squad we have got, just the depth and the versatility we have got is incredible when someone like David Miller has played one game this year. He is one of the most destructive batters in the world and would play in any other IPL team. He has got a great T20 record and can hurt teams.
“We haven’t performed to the potential we have and we know that as a group. We have shown that in phases in the tournament and haven’t been able to do it on a consistent basis. That is what the best teams are able to. We are a young team and every year I have come back, things are improving and things are going the right way with RR. Who knows next year or year after that might be our year,” he pointed.
Commenting on the biggest challenge this year — being in a bio-secure bubble — Stokes said: “I feel it’s a really challenging thing to go through. Especially when it’s so far away from what we’ve been used to for so many years. Being in a bio-secure bubble take away that freedom that we’re used to but looking at the bigger picture it’s a responsibility that we have on our shoulders as professional cricketers and athletes to keep the game going on the TV screens. Giving the fans the entertainment that they want.”
“It obviously comes with its challenges, you know being away from the family, being in the same place for a long period of time, it can get a bit monotonous after a certain point of time but then we’d much rather be in a bubble playing cricket and doing what we love than sitting at home not being able to do. We need to put things into perspective, there are millions in the world suffering a lot more than what we are. Thinking about them when we feel that times are getting tough makes it a little bit easier,” he added.