Ben Stokes poses for a portrait at Hangar-7 in Salzburg, Austria on April 12, 2022.
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Cricket

Ben Stokes is English cricket’s World Cup hero (again)

England’s Test captain underlined his value in the shortest form of the game with a match-winning performance in the final of the ICC Men's T20 World Cup.
Written by Tarquin Cooper
6 min readUpdated on
It is often said that greatness is not defined by victories but by defeats – and how you come back from them. No one does coming back stronger like the cricketing all-rounder Ben Stokes.
In the 2016 T20 World Cup final against the West Indies, Stokes suffered about the worst thing that can happen to a bowler. In the final over, Carlos Brathwaite hit four straight sixes off Stokes to clinch victory with just two balls to spare.
“He smacked me all over the park,” Stokes recalls. “I could have let that define me and then let it eat me up. But it’s what happened, it's been and gone. It was tough to deal with at the time.”
Cricket, in all of its varied formats, can be a cruel game for even the most gifted players but Stokes has gone from strength to strength over the course of an 11-year career in the England set-up, maturing into one of game’s greatest all-rounders.
Ben Stokes performs at Hangar-7 in Salzburg, Austria on April 12, 2022 .
The Sound of Chin Music
Three years after that chastening experience against West Indies, he produced an electrifying performance to guide England to victory in the final of the 50-over World Cup against New Zealand.
His unbeaten 84 runs helped England to tie a gripping finale in the last over. That took the match to a Super Over where Stokes was once again decisive in leading his side home.
Then, in November 2022, things really came full circle. England had again made their way to the T20 World Cup final, this time facing a formidable Pakistan side. Chasing a target of 137, the English batsmen were immediately put under pressure by a swift and spirited fast-bowling attack.
With the top order wobbling after the loss of two early wickets, Stokes arrived at the crease and once again produced a match-saving unbeaten innings. He hit his first-ever T20 half-century to hold his team together and see them home with six balls to spare. The result means that England are the first men's side to hold both 20-over and 50-over world titles at the same time.
Ben Stokes seen training in Newcastle on May 28, 2021.
Stokes makes things happen
It's Ben Stokes. It's always Ben Stokes
Nasser Hussein, former England Test Cricket captain
“Every experience is a learning curve, whether it be good or bad,” Stokes says, assessing the ups and downs. “So there's always going to be moments where you look back and you were the wrong side of the competition, but it is how you assess that and how you deal with it. A great phrase that I really live by is you're only as good as your next game – and that works for doing well as well as not doing well.”
What makes the wins special and the defeats more bearable is being able to share the experience, he adds.
“I just love the sport. In a baseball game the crowd will go wild for one home run. But in cricket you’ll see 15 or 20 of them in a game. There’s also just something special about being in a team, sharing the victories. The attraction is being able to share everything, going through everything with other people who have the same goals as you.”
Ben Stokes poses for a portrait in Salzburg, Austria on April 12, 2022.
Ben Stokes strikes a pose
Stokes’s individual heroics are often singled out – for good reason. He once hit 258 against South Africa, the highest for a number-six batsman. It was also the fastest double century for England. Other records include the most number of catches in an innings – five in 2020, again against South Africa. But he says an individual performance means nothing without a win.
“I'd rather have an absolute stinker of a game and the team wins than do something great and not win because at the end of the day, what is that worth? It's worth nothing. Winning – that's most important to me.”
As balances the demands of playing with his role of Test captain, Stokes has to work harder than ever to stay on top of his game. The demands of the sport are intense, he says.
“People think cricket's just standing in the field doing nothing, but it's not! Eight or nine times my body weight goes through my body when I bowl. I'm 92 kilos, so that's 800 kilos going through my body every time I bowl a ball and I can do that 120 times a day over a 10 month period. That's a lot!”
Ben Stokes poses for a portrait in Newcastle on May 28, 2021.
Stokes in Test whites
I'd rather have an absolute stinker of a game and the team wins than do something great and not win
Stokes is now 31 – training in the gym is no longer about lifting heavy weights but more about staying injury-free.
“I've got to make sure my quads, hamstrings, my lower back and core is very strong to support all that. I also like to do a lot of short, sharp running sessions. A lot of high intensity running is actually similar to what I do on the field as cricket involves very short, sharp bursts of energy, especially when it comes to running.”
But that’s not to say that Stokes doesn’t have endurance to go the distance for hours on end. “I’m a massive Marvel fan,” he says. “All four of us are at home. We did the marathon in lockdown – watching all 21 films in order.”
Family life is hugely important to Stokes; he and his wife have two kids, Layton and Libby. Much of his inspiration comes from his late father Gerard, a former Rugby League player and coach. Often Stokes can be seen raising a crooked finger to salute his dad after a great performance.
Stokes senior, who was originally from New Zealand, had an injured finger amputated rather go through the long process of surgery and rehab as it meant he’d get back to playing rugby more quickly.
But Ben points out that it was his mum who was the cricket player in the family. “She played club cricket and she was good, better than my dad.”
These days watching his own kids doing all their activities and sports gives him a huge amount of pleasure. And his lightning fielding reactions come in handy at home where he’s constantly saving dropped phones. “I do it all the time,” he laughs.
But he knows that he also has a responsibility to the England cricket team. “I want to stay in this game as long as I possibly can, until my body just can’t do it anymore. And I want to win! I'd love to be part of another Ashes-winning team.”
The last Ashes earlier this year was a difficult experience for England, ending with them getting taken apart by Australia.
But then we know how Stokes responds to setbacks and it would be foolish to underestimate what he can do at the helm.

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Ben Stokes

A true all-rounder, England's Test cricket captain Ben Stokes has developed into one of the most powerful and explosive cricketers on the planet.

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