Struggling Stokes makes a quiet exit

Ben Stokes

Ben Stokes cost the Rajasthan Royals $10,000 for every Indian Premier League run he managed this year, making him a luxury even by the opulent league's standards.

Stokes, under pressure over a looming court case for a street fight, was voted the IPL's Most Valuable Player last year and was the top foreign signing for 2018 with a $1.96 million deal. But he left India this week having scored just 196 runs in 13 games.

By contrast New Zealander Kane Williamson, captain of table-topper Sunrisers Hyderabad, has bashed his 625 runs so far for less than $725 each. And he is still going strong.

Many commentators believe England star Stokes' off-field troubles have blunted his performance on the pitch.

"Ben Stokes hasn't been that aggressive in-your-face cricketer in this tournament due to what's happened," said former New Zealand all-rounder Scott Styris.

"And part of that reason I think is because he has to keep a low profile. That's not his personality," Styris told AFP.

The Royals, coming back after a two-year corruption ban and struggling in the race for a playoff place, have badly missed the explosive batting and bowling that made Stokes one of the world's leading allrounders. He managed just eight wickets with the ball.

"He needs to be that Ben Stokes the character who dominates the game," added Styris. "He was the number one allrounder in the world, he was MVP," the cricketer-turned-commentator said.

Stokes was picked up for $2.16 million with Rising Pune Supergiant in 2017 and lived up to his reputation by hitting 316 runs and taking 12 wickets in 12 matches. It sealed him a big reputation in India, which is why the Royals took the risk.

Former Australia batsman Dean Jones said Stokes' relative lack of international cricket in recent months had affected his performance.

"Stokes was MVP last year and this year he has missed out and that's the game T20," said Jones, adding that Stokes should have played himself into this year's IPL pressure cooker.

"Don't go there and start smacking from the word go.

"It's all about momentum at the start. If you have scores under your belt then you relax in your job, but he hasn't got that."

It was another Englishman, Jos Buttler, who stole the Royals show this year. Buttler's showing was in stark contrast to Stokes' as he hit 548 runs in 13 games at a strike-rate of 155.4.

Like Stokes, Buttler has returned home to prepare for England's first Test against Pakistan at Lord's on May 24.

The English duo recorded a video message for Royals fans before leaving, in which they expressed hope that the champions of the IPL's opening 2008 season would at least make the final four.

 

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Struggling Stokes makes a quiet exit

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