Ben Stokes is in the league of Shane Warne, opines Adam Gilchrist
What's the story?
Former Australian wicket-keeper Adam Gilchrist has likened the overall game of Ben Stokes to the sheer impact created by the legendary Shane Warne. Hailing the England all-rounder's ability to contribute on multiple fronts, the iconic gloveman went on to place him on a similar pedestal to his erstwhile teammate.
"Andrew Strauss is cricket director at the ECB. I know for sure, knowing him, that he’d be reluctant to send Ben Stokes (to play in the Ashes) but I think they know how valuable he is to this team. He’s three players. Without doubt (he’s their best player), when you look at everything," Gilchrist said on the Back Page Live on Saturday.
The 45-year-old added, "Shane Warne was the best cricketer I ever played with or against because he was the best bowler (and) his batting was very, very handy. He was the best slip fielder, so that’s three players — and Stokes is very much in that category. His high score is 250 odd with the bat, six for forty odd are his best bowling figures and he’s a great fielder."
Following a drunken brawl in Bristol late last month, Stokes and Alex Hales were suspended until further notice by the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB). With incriminating video footage coming to light, the board announced that the all-rounder will not be travelling with his teammates to Australia (for the time being) even though he had been named in the Ashes squad earlier.
The heart of the matter
Although the decision is not a final one, there is a serious possibility of Stokes not playing any part right throughout the 5-match Test series Down Under. Despite being in a quagmire, the left-handed batsman was included in the list of centrally contracted players for Tests as well as ODIs/T20Is.
Fast bowler Steven Finn has been named as the all-rounder's replacement unless there is a significant change in situation and the latter puts himself back into contention. However, Gilchrist revealed that he had taken a look at the video footage and did not mince any words in expressing his displeasure at the conduct of both Stokes as well as Hales.
With the Avon and Somerset Police currently interviewing witnesses and conducting their investigation, Stokes's immediate future appears uncertain. If the inquiry continues for some more time, the ECB will be forced to rule the all-rounder categorically out of the entire tour. The 2017/18 Ashes is set to begin at the Gabba on November 23.
Even though Stokes clearly has a long way to go before even entering into comparisons with legendary players such as Warne, the context of Gilchrist's views has to be taken into account.
In terms of impact, the maverick all-rounder is a multi-dimensional cricketer and probably the most valuable player in the current era. Needless to say, England's already slim chances of retaining the Ashes will plummet further if Stokes misses out on the trip to Australia.