India vs England: England drop Sam Curran, recall Ben Stokes for third India Test amid raging debate
Ben Stokes, who bowled England to a narrow win in the Edgbaston Test but missed the Lord’s game due to the trial, will replace all-rounder Sam Curran, 20, who has impressed in this series.cricket Updated: Aug 17, 2018 22:52 IST
England skipper Joe Root announced Ben Stokes will play in the Trent Bridge Test against India starting on Saturday, brushing aside burning debate over recalling the all-rounder days after his acquittal over affray charges.
The British media has questioned Stokes’ conduct in the brawl outside a Bristol bar last September, raising concerns what it would do to the image of English cricket, how would fans respond when he comes out to play and what it would do for team ethos.
Stokes, who bowled England to a narrow win in the Edgbaston Test but missed the Lord’s game due to the trial, will replace all-rounder Sam Curran, 20, who has impressed in this series.
“It’s probably one of the most difficult selections I’ve had to make as captain. Sam misses out, Ben comes into the side,” Root said at a media conference on Friday.
“I just sat down and told him (Curran). The difficult part is everyone is performing so well.”
Root was asked many questions about Stokes’ comeback. He gave his reasons.
“At the start of the series I said to the team ‘for us to win a five-match series against the best side in the world, it’s going to take more than just 11 players’. It’s about us as a squad performing collectively for five games, and he’s (Curran) played a massive part in the first two.
“It might be that he comes back in later on. So ultimately, it’s about us as a squad delivering over a five- to six-week period.”
Root said Stokes was keen to put aside his legal hassles. “He’s just desperate to get back playing cricket, make that his main focus. I sat him down yesterday, just me and him, and asked him where he was at. He told me he’s desperate to get out there, wants to put in performances and concentrate on his cricket now.
“He felt he was ready to play. We assessed his fitness as well, over the course of the two days, and made that call.”
Root said there was no doubt over Stokes once he was recalled by the Board and selectors. “You don’t want to leave someone like Ben out. He offers so much to this group on and off the field.”
But what kind of reception will fans give Stokes considering his behaviour? “Who knows? It is very difficult to say. It has been a long time, a long process and he has been found not guilty now. Who knows how people will react, but I am sure he is very aware there might be a slightly different reaction.
“That is all part and parcel of making sure you feel ready to play. He feels he can do that and as a side we are very clear on how we approach this week and making sure the main focus is the actual cricket.”
Stokes could still be punished by the ECB disciplinary panel. “In terms of Ben, his cricket and commitment is always there. It’s a bit more complex than that. There are still a lot of things that need to happen and we can’t really look too far ahead until (they) have taken place,” Root said.
England pace spearhead James Anderson is 11 short of overhauling Australian great Glenn McGrath as the most successful fast bowler in cricket history. Anderson, 36, has 563 wickets, 13 so far in this series.
“You’re talking about two of the all-time great bowlers,” Root said. “Whether it happens now or further down the line, there’s no disputing that Jimmy is one of the best bowlers of all time – not just in this current generation, but since the game began.
“That just shows how valuable he is to this team, leading the attack, giving the opportunity to the guys around him to learn from, working alongside them to build pressure – and do everything else around the group to help us win Test matches.”
First Published: Aug 17, 2018 20:43 IST