London: Ben Stokes has said that he will “never be an angel” but believes his fight outside a nightclub that landed him in the dock at court has forced him to change his life for the better.
Stokes is back in the England side and starting to approach his best form since he was acquitted of affray at Bristol Crown Court last August. A man-of-the-match performance in England’s opening World Cup match — when he made his highest score since his arrest in September 2017 and took a wonder catch — was the strongest sign yet that he had put the experience behind him.
Now, as he prepares for England’s fourth World Cup group match on Friday against the West Indies, Stokes has admitted the incident in Bristol made him realise he had to change his ways.
“I’m not going to suddenly be an angel, because that’s not me. It’s just about trying to make better decisions, but I don’t think of this in terms of it being a second opportunity,” he said.
“What I have learnt is that the people I need — who are important to what I do and who I want to be there — are around me. Before [you have learnt that], you try to please everyone, but you just can’t do it. There are other lessons, obviously, but that’s the main thing. It has made me understand who the right people are, and who I need in my life.”
In private, Stokes’s teammates describe a player who has been a lot more dedicated to cricket since his return to the side, throwing himself into training and working harder than ever on his game.
“We’ve got the World Cup and the Ashes, and people have said to me, ‘Are you trying to prove yourself all over again?’ But I don’t have to do that. I don’t have to prove myself to anyone. I only have to prove things to myself,” he said. “I’m not looking to please anyone, or to go out there and do something individually great. As long as England win, I don’t really care about trying to prove a point to people.
“It’s always going to be there, it’s always going to be with me, and people are always going to ask me about it. I’m fine with that; I’ve dealt with it.”
Jos Buttler has been diagnosed with heavy bruising to his hip but England are confident he will be fit to face West Indies.
He sustained the bruise while batting against Pakistan in England’s second game and appeared to pull a muscle in the same area while hitting a six off the back foot during his innings of 64 in Cardiff on Saturday.
Jonny Bairstow deputised as wicketkeeper in that match and Buttler was assessed over the weekend with England relieved to learn his problem was bruising rather than any muscle damage.
“He is responding well to treatment and will be reassessed later this week,” said England in a statement. “We anticipate he will train with the rest of the squad at the Hampshire Bowl on Wednesday ahead of the match against West Indies on Friday.”
England had other good news on the injury front when Adil Rashid declared he was fully fit after two injections in his right shoulder. Rashid has been struggling for form this summer and was lucky to stay in the side against Bangladesh with England instead opting to drop Moeen Ali for the extra seamer despite Moeen bowling much better in the two previous World Cup matches.
“I’ve always been fit to play. I have had a bit of shoulder problem before the past couple of weeks, but now it’s getting stronger, getting there, and hopefully it remains strong for the rest of the tournament,” said Rashid.
— The Telegraph Group Limited, London 2019