England all-rounder Ben Stokes, who played a match-winning knock against Pakistan in the 2022 World Cup final, has opted out of this edition to be held in June. Image Credit: AFP

London: England’s hopes of defending their Twenty20 World Cup title suffered a big blow after all-rounder Ben Stokes opted out of selection to focus on regaining his fitness ahead of the summer’s Test fixtures, the country’s cricket board (ECB) said in a statement on Tuesday.

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England claimed their second title in 2022 after defeating Pakistan in the final in Australia. Stokes scored the winning runs with an unbeaten 52.

The ECB added that Stokes’s primary focus “is to get fully fit to bowl” for the upcoming test series against West Indies and Sri Lanka.

Knee surgery

In November, Stokes underwent surgery for a knee issue, which hampered his ability to bowl regularly.

“I’m working hard and focusing on building my bowling fitness back up to fulfil a full role as an all-rounder in all formats of cricket,” Stokes, England’s Test captain, said in a statement.

“Opting out of the IPL and the World Cup will, hopefully, be a sacrifice that allows me to be the all-rounder I want to be for the foreseeable future.”

Little part for Chennai Super Kings

Stokes was part of the Chennai Super Kings win they won their fifth title in 2023, but played a very little part during the season.

The 2024 T20 World Cup will be held in the West Indies and the United States in June.

— With inputs from Reuters