Mysterious benefactor had a hand in discovering Ben Stokes
England’s Ben Stokes treated millions of fans across the world with a thrilling display of aggressive batting as he raced to 258 on their second test against South Africa. This was the fastest 250 in the history of test matches. Setting the record by facing only 163 deliveries, the Kiwi born English cricketer earned himself a tag of ‘magnificent’ from Ian Botham.
While millions cheered at this record, there is one mysterious well-wisher who must have been at the zenith of satisfaction. John Gibson, Stokes’ first coach said that there was an anonymous benefactor who decided to pay for the cricketer’s private coaching seeing potential in him. Ben was 13 back then and he had just moved with his family from New Zealand.
"There was a benefactor, but we have said we are not going to tell anyone." still a coach at the Cockermouth Cricket Club in Cumbria, England, Gibson told The London Telegraph on Sunday. The secret, he admitted, was only known to him and his wife besides the benefactor.
“He (Stokes) had power and potential but he was technically erratic when he first came here,” the cricket coach said. Gibson also added, "He was a bit raw in his first couple of years. He was very powerful, that was obvious, he was very, very strong and he was a natural timer of the cricket ball, but he was erratic in his technique. We ironed that out and he became a lovely player. He loved practising. He would have spent seven days a week playing down at the club if he could. He threw himself into practice. We did some individual sessions through the winter with him.”
Recalling on the first time that he saw his pupil who is now an international star Gibson said, “He had received some coaching in New Zealand, but when he first turned up at the Cockermouth's nets, his bowling was wayward and his batting was powerful but raw.”
The triumph of the old Cockermouth boy provided some much needed limelight to the club. The grounds of the club were submerged due to the recent floods.
Stokes had come to England since his father, who was a rugby coach, had to shift from New Zealand. Ged, Ben’s father had got a job with the nearby Workington. Ben was a talented rugby player but was under no pressure from his family to advance in that sport. Gibson said: "People say, did you think he was going to play for England? No of course I didn't. In a small town you don't get to work with people who go on to represent their country very often. He was the best I have I have ever coached, but was he going to play for England, how would I ever know?" As it turned out, Stokes would become one of those people who represents his country.
Ian Botham called him a match winner after this feat. "We knew he'd got it, and this is the tip of the iceberg. He'll get it wrong once in a while but he is a guy that wins matches, and they don't come along very often," he said.