Putting Country First : England Test Skipper Ben Stokes To Cut Short IPL Commitments To Play Test Against Ireland ; Targets Ashes

Picture : ICC

England all-rounder and Test skipper Ben Stokes has confirmed that he will cut short his Indian Premier League (IPL) commitments to be available for England at the start of their 2023 Test summer, which will kick off with a match against Ireland from June 1.

Stokes was picked up for Rs 16.25 crore by four-time IPL champions Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in the auction back in December last year. During England’s last year’s series with Pakistan, he had expressed his intentions to return to the competition after missing the 2022 edition of the league.

But the final of IPL will take place on May 28, just four days before the first Test of English summer at Lord’s against Ireland on June 1. It will serve as some much-needed match practice ahead of the Ashes against Australia, which will start from June 16 onwards.

It is pretty normal for centrally-contracted players to miss the latter stages of IPL because of how it coincides with the start of international cricket summer in England. However, the current regime of director of men’s cricket Rob Key and Test head coach Brendon McCullum has adopted a more relaxed approach and has seen England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) work with players in case of clashes between international and franchise cricket. A number of players turned down England’s upcoming white-ball tour of Bangladesh, starting from March 1 onwards, to fulfil their commitments at the ongoing Pakistan Super League (PSL).

As Test skipper, Stokes has led England to a win in 10 of their 11 matches. This record might have earned him a right to play the full competition. But Stokes has kept interests of England cricket above IPL and decided it would be best to return early.

“Yes, I will play,” Stokes was quoted as saying by ESPNCricinfo when asked if he will play the Ireland Test.

“I will be making sure that I give myself enough time to get back and play that [Ireland] game,” added Stokes.

But how many players follow his lead is yet to be seen. In the current Test set-up, there are eight players who are set to play IPL, out of which six have full-time contracts. These players are, Joe Root, Mark Wood, Jonny Bairstow, Liam Livingstone, Jofra Archer and Sam Curran. Harry Brook is on an incremental deal.

ECB could enforce a deadline by which they make a return to international cricket. Stokes said that he will discuss what they need to stay ready for an all-important Ashes series, leaving the door open for some players to miss the Ireland test if they prefer.

“I will probably get round the individuals and ask them what they want to be ready for the Ashes, because those five games are obviously the big ones of the summer, and you have got to think about what lads want. But what if something was to happen in that game [Ireland] and we lose someone for the Ashes … It is just one of those where you have to weigh up the options of what the individual person actually wants out of that week, versus do we really need to play that one. Because, obviously, I am right in saying that series is bigger than that game against Ireland,” said Stokes.

Speaking in Wellington ahead of the second Test against New Zealand in Basin Reserve, starting from February 24 onwards, Stokes confirmed that he would like to go ahead with an unchanged playing eleven. However, it is uncertain if he can do that with pacers James Anderson, Ollie Robinson and Stuart Broad being monitored after the 267-run win at Mount Maunganui.

Robinson is likely to take rest after suffering discomfort below his left knee on day three. Matthew Potts or Olly Stone are two of potential replacements for him.

“If we have got a couple of people who are a bit sore, or bowlers who do not feel like they are 100 per cent right to go, then I will still be picking my best team because I will be picking the XI who are able to play,” Stokes said.

“So it is the beauty of the squad we have got at the moment – if someone does not feel like they are quite up to performing again after a close turnaround, we will still be able to pick the best team judging by the people we have got,” concluded the skipper.

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