London: Ben Stokes is desperate to inspire England back to the pinnacle of Test cricket, saying the team has “slacked off” in the past two years, slipping to fifth in the world rankings.
The 26-year-old all-rounder returned to international cricket in February against New Zealand but could not prevent a 1-0 defeat for the tourists to extend a miserable run that has seen England win just one Test series overseas since 2012.
Stokes missed his side’s 4-0 Ashes humbling after being suspended from playing for England over a nightclub incident and admitted he was “gutted” to watch his teammates struggling in Australia.
Just two years ago England were one Test win away from holding all nine bilateral Test trophies but were denied as Pakistan won at the Oval and squared the series.
“I just want to get us back to playing the way we want to play,” Stokes told Britain’s Guardian newspaper. “We were so close to being one of the best teams in the world.
“We’ve slacked off in the past two years but knowing how close we were gives you that desire to get back there.”
New Zealand-born Stokes said he had accepted the decision of coach Trevor Bayliss not to reinstate him as vice-captain for the New Zealand series.
Stokes, currently playing for Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League, pleaded not guilty to a charge of affray over the nightclub incident that forced him out of the Ashes tour.
Looking back at his return to international cricket with a low-key score of 12 in the first one-dayer at Hamilton, Stokes said: “I was anxious. I was guilty of thinking too far ahead and trying to make an impression. It was like I was at the start of my career.” His unbeaten 63 then steered Morgan’s side to a series‑levelling win at Mount Maunganui.
“I was really emotional after getting Man of the Match in that second game back. It was such a relief to perform and be there at the end. I had five minutes to myself after getting back to the dressing room, sat in my bubble and taking it all in. The lads appreciated that and gave me space. It was a great feeling.”
He looks set to miss the second Test against India at Lord’s, with his trial set for August 6.