Ben Stokes leaves door open for possible U-turn on ODI retirement

Ben Stokes has left the door open for a possible U-turn on his ODI retirement for England’s defence of the 50-over World Cup next winter.

The allrounder, currently in Pakistan captaining the Test side on their first tour of the country in 17 years, retired from one-day cricket in the summer to focus on the other two international formats. In doing so, he said managing his workload in a convoluted schedule was “unsustainable”, urging administrators to get a firmer grasp of the fixture list to prevent other multi-format cricketers from taking a similar decision.

However, following England’s T20 World Cup win earlier this month in Australia, of which Stokes was a key part with 52 not out – a first half-century in the format – to take his side to victory in the final against Pakistan, limited-overs coach Matthew Mott floated the prospect of Stokes going back on the decision. “When he spoke to me about his ODI retirement, one of the first things I said was that I’d back any decision he made, but I said to him he didn’t necessarily have to retire, he could just not play 50 overs for a while,” Mott said.

Coming into the tournament, Stokes had not played a T20I since March 2021, and given how the 31-year-old performed – 110 runs at an average of 36.66 and six wickets – the consensus is he could play a similar peripheral role ahead of the 2023 50-over World Cup in India, particularly as ODIs are perhaps his best format, with averages of 38.98 and 42.39 (and 74 dismissals), with bat and ball respectively.

Speaking ahead of the first Test against Pakistan, Stokes revealed director of men’s cricket Rob Key had floated the idea of an ODI return to him during the training camp in Abu Dhabi last week. While dismissive at the time, the 2019 player of the final stopped short of ruling himself out of contention.

“Keysy pulled me to the side in the UAE and as soon as he said ’50-over World Cup’ I just walked away,” said Stokes.

“Who knows? At the moment, being out here, my focus is solely on this series (against Pakistan). But it’s one of those things. But 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. But at the moment I’m not even thinking about that.”

At the time of writing, Stokes faces a very front-heavy 2023. These three Pakistan Tests will take him into the New Year ahead of a two-Test tour of New Zealand in February. He will then move onto the Indian Premier League having put himself forward for the draft which takes place on December 16. Upon returning from the IPL, he heads straight into a four-day Test against Ireland before a five-match Ashes series which finishes at the end of July. There are also four T20Is against New Zealand shoe-horned in at the end of the home season.

Should he hold firm on his ODI retirement, he would be twiddling his thumps during the World Cup, which begins in October, ahead of a five-match series in the Caribbean during December. If he does have a change of heart, there would be six ODIs in the summer, split evenly between New Zealand and Ireland to get back into the 50-over groove.

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