The roller-coaster ride of Ben Stokes
"It's hard when you feel down and you think, 'Why is the world doing this to me?' But you have to pick yourself up again." - Jessica Ennis (British Athlete)
England's Ben Stokes has done exactly that. He has made a successful comeback after the ugly brawl outside a bar in West Indies in September 2017. He was adjudged as the Man of the Match for his all-round effort (63* off 74 and 2-42) against New Zeland, in only his second game after his comeback.
Now, Stokes' life has come a full circle. In the IPL 2017, he was sold to Rising Pune Supergiant for a whopping Rs 14.5 crore. He played a pivotal role in the RPS's campaign by scoring 316 runs at an average of 31.60 and a strike-rate of 142.98 and picking up 12 wickets at an average of 26.33 and an economy rate of 7.18. He was also awarded the Player of the Tournament.
The left-hander left the IPL midway and joined his national team for a 2-match series against South Africa. He smashed a stunning 101 off 79 balls against SA in the second and final match of the series. Since then he has won many matches for England with both bat and ball. He had become a household name in world cricket.
All of a sudden, his career took a nosedive when he was arrested for an ugly brawl outside a bar in September 2017 and he went from hero to zero. He was dropped from the Ashes squad. He didn't play a single international game in the past five months.
During this period, the IPL auction took place. The star all-rounder was the biggest buy in the previous season. Many thought that he would go for a small amount of money because the case was still in court. However, Rajasthan Royals bagged him for a whopping Rs 12.5 crore.
Many questions were asked. When will Stokes make a comeback? Even if he makes a comeback, will he be the same match-winner?
After a five-month-long hiatus, he made a return to the squad for the ongoing series against New Zealand. He had an average outing in the first match of the series. Although he bagged two wickets for 43 runs in 8 overs, he could score only 12 off 22 deliveries and England lost the match by 3 wickets.
In the second match, he picked up two wickets for 42 runs. More importantly, he scored a match-winning 63* off 74 balls. When he walked in, England were struggling at 86-3 with Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root back in the hut. He shared an 88-run stand with England skipper Eoin Morgan for the fourth wicket and put on an unbeaten stand of 51 with Jos Buttler. By virtue of Stokes' all-round performance, England won the match by 6 wickets. He was named the Man of the Match as well.
Stokes must be a relieved man now as everything seems to be back to normal. He has picked up wickets and has scored runs.
In 2013, David Warner punched Joe Root in a Birmingham nightclub. He was criticised heavily by media and players. The Australian, however, came back strongly after the incident. Since 2014, Warner has scored 4254 runs in Tests at an average of 52.51. In ODIs, he has made 3210 runs at an average of 51.77 and a strike-rate of 103.81. His performance after the incident is way better than it was before.
Stokes should take a leaf out of Warner's book. Warner didn't allow the incident to cause any negative impact on him, instead, he learned from his mistakes and came out with flying colours. Hopefully, Stokes will follow Warner's footsteps and become a better player than he was before.