Moment of redemption for Big Ben

Moment of redemption for Big Ben

MAN OF STEEL: From being involved in a drunken brawl to a man of the match performance in the World Cup final, Ben Stokes has turned his career around in splendid style. REUTERS

Ben Stokes was controversially dropped from the England squad for the 2015 World Cup where they couldn’t even progress beyond the group stage. Four years later, the all-rounder has fashioned England’s biggest ODI win ever, piloting them to their maiden World Cup title when New Zealand appeared to deny them the most coveted silverware in cricket.

A player with immense talent but burdened by an equally extreme mood swings, Stokes’ has had an eventful career so far. In fact, life itself. From missing the 2014 World T20 following his wrist injury after punching a locker box in the dressing room in a fit of anger to getting dropped for the 2017-18 Ashes series for a pub brawl, and conceding four sixes on the trot in the 2016 T20 final in Kolkata with West Indies needing 19 to win off the final over to redeeming himself with a title-winning unbeaten 84 at Lord’s on Sunday, it has been a roller-coaster ride for the New Zealand-born all-rounder.     

“I’m pretty lost for words. All that hard work for four years and now to be stood here as champions of the world, it’s an amazing feeling,” Stokes said after receiving his man of the final award. “There was no chance I wasn’t going to be there at the end. It’s moments like that you live for as a professional cricketer. It’s incredible, I hope we have inspired people to want to do this in the future.”

In the sweltering Kolkata night two years ago, Stokes sank to the turf in despair and was left inconsolable as Carols Brathwaite sent four attempted-yorkers-turned-half-volleys into the stands. With an opportunity to become a national hero, Stokes had turned into villain of the piece in a matter of five minutes. Sunday, he wasn’t going to fritter away that chance again on a bigger stage and in front of home crowd. With an unbeaten 84 in the regular time that helped England tie the game in the regular time and extract the same result in the Super Over as well with an eight of 15 runs, he had found his salvation. He can finally put behind the ghosts of Kolkata behind him.

Not many can come out of such drubbing and still be performing at this level and on this scale. It takes great character and resilience to get over these kinds of debilitating setbacks. It can end the careers of mere mortals. But then, Stokes is no ordinary human being, he is a “superhuman” as his skipper Eoin Morgan referred to him. The English skipper hoped everybody watching him at home will try and become like him.

“Yes, I have said this a number of times about Ben,” Morgan began. “I think a lot of careers would have been ended after what happened in Kolkata. Ben on numerous occasions has stood up individually and in a unit for us. He leads the way in training, in any team meetings we have, and he’s an incredible cricketer. And today he’s had a huge day out and obviously we are thankful for that.

“To come through it (Kolkata drubbing) is extraordinary, he is almost superhuman. He is really carried the team and our batting line-up. I know Jos (Buttler) and his partnership was extraordinary, but to bat with the lower order the way he did I thought was incredible.

“The atmosphere, the emotion that was going through the whole game, he managed to deal with that in an extremely experienced manner. And obviously everybody watching at home will hopefully try and be the next Ben Stokes (smiling),” Morgan observed.