Ben Stokes was sold for $2.1 million in this years IPL auction, which was an incredible sum and the most paid for an overseas player to date. Owing to his ‘X Factor’ status as one of the most exciting cricketers in the world, it didn’t come as a great surprise when the 8-team battle for his signature ended with him going to Rising Pune Supergiant’s for such a large figure.
However, having watched Stokes as a T20 player for England, it occurred to me that I could scarcely recall a match winning performance from him in that format. In fact, and perhaps very harshly, I can only think of that horrific 5 minutes spell against Carlos Braithwaite in the T20 World Cup Final. On the other hand, you could pick from a handful of wonderful moments from his young test career so far: his first hundred against Australia in 2013, his 92 and 101 at Lords against New Zealand in 2015, or that phenomenal double hundred against South Africa last year, to name a few. When you also throw in two 6 wicket hauls against Australia and the unbelievable, hand on mouth-inducing, catch against Australia at Trent Bridge, it seems obvious that his best cricketing moments have come in the whites of England’s test team.
Indeed, Stokes has been nominated man of the match 3 times in test cricket and twice in one-day internationals (in which his form has improved dramatically over the last two years), but has not yet picked up the award in T20 internationals. He tends to score his test runs at a high strike rate (two of his hundreds have come at over a run-a-ball) and he’s smashed 33 6’s and 249 4’s in the longest format. One might therefore argue that his stellar reputation has been laid by his performances in the test, not T20, arena.
Given the way he scores his runs, it’s curious that his T20 record is slightly below par. It is worthy of note that the seemingly less exciting England all-rounder Chris Woakes (sold to Kolkata Knight Riders for $626,000) has a higher batting average (26.24 vs 23.15) and strike rate (138.39 vs 134.97), and more wickets (86 vs 33) at a lower average (26.51 vs 37.36) in T20 cricket. However, it’s easy to forget that Stokes is only 25 and may be yet to peak (a frightening thought!).
Ben Stokes has all the attributes to be a fantastic player in the format. For example, in his batting he has both a lovely technique to pierce the gaps and the sort of brute strength in which he can clear the ropes with ease (he incidentally scored a very good 50 on Saturday, his first in the IPL). Also, despite that nightmare in Kolkata he is actually a canny bowler (in the two matches leading up to that final he was very economical against Sri Lanka and picked up 3 wickets against New Zealand). Furthermore, he is one of the best fielders in world cricket, which, judging on the ‘village’ style fielding in the IPL thus far, is a valuable asset.
Having watched most of the IPL 2017 season so far, I have to say that possessing a player who can bat at 4, hit boundaries and bowl down 4 good overs could be invaluable as the tournament progresses. Therefore, I agree with the gamble RPS have taken but it will be extremely interesting which all-rounder goes back to England with the bragging rights from this years IPL!