How Ben Stokes, a rebel in love with Test cricket, is changing the game

After the passing of his father in 2020, if Ben Stokes had decided to quit playing cricket, Bazball might have existed in Brendon McCullum’s mind as a hazy theory in the background. Because Stokes more than any other cricketer in England represents the concept, with all its magic and lunacy, virtues and vices, brilliance and flakiness. McCullum may have forged and developed a particular style of cricket, but Stokes was necessary for the concepts to come to life and take on a human form.

It is the beating heart of all revolutionary philosophies. Ideas require the right men at the right places at the right times in order to be realised. Without Harold Larwood, the Nottingham coal miner’s son who would frighten Donald Bradman and his friends, Douglas Jardine would not have embraced the Bodyline. If West Indies hadn’t been endowed with exceptional quicks, Clive Lloyd wouldn’t have installed the pace quartet. His teams were unable to terrorise batters with their medium pacers’ wibbly-wibbly-wobbly movements. Instead of being the result of the flip of a magic switch, a sporting concept is frequently the result of several things coming together.

Stokes, though, is unique; this does not always make him better. He has an ethereal quality that motivates everyone around him. He had the power to sway the men in his vicinity, dazzling them with his own brilliance. Joe Root has raised the bar for batsmanship, emulating Jack Leach in that memorable last-wicket stand at Headingley, creating colossi from scraps like Jonny Bairstow, and persuading men to come out of retirement, as Moeen Ali did when he agreed to play in the Ashes. The first Test saw Root, out of all the batsmen, unleash the Bazball shots under pressure, including reverse-lapping and charging.

Stokes had the ability to overcome fate as well. He could twist destiny and manipulate fate to pull off amazing feats like the ricocheted six in the 2019 World Cup final. Moments may sometimes make Stokes, and vice versa.

He is possibly the most inebriated England captain in recent memory. Joe Root’s stillness, Andrew Strauss’ damaged demeanour, Kevin Pietersen’s fake bravado, Nasser Hussain’s fake anger, and Michael Vaughan’s aloof demeanour were all signs of apprehension.

He has lost his bowling vigour, he admits. His shoulders and knees have become accustom to injuries. Previously, he would reach early 140 kph, but now the pace has slowed. The balls used to have snap and bite, but now they lack those qualities. He used to be the third seamer’s workhorse, plodding ceaselessly up the slope and into the wind while bustling like a local bus loaded with passengers to make sure Anderson and Broad had enough time to refuel. There was also a feeling of unfulfillment because he never developed into the bowler he was expected to be or reached the all-rounder leadership peak that his potential deserved.

But he has a talent for creating moments. So he carried out. On his fingertip tips, there is always a hint of enchantment, an errant beam of light, or a tinge of cosmic energy. He then provided another moment. merely six balls.

On the pitch, Stokes could also be a fallible person. As beautifully portrayed in the documentary Ben Stokes: Phoenix from the Ashes, he had experienced panic episodes before games, deep despair outside of it, and had once considered quitting the game. Even Stokes’ closest buddy Stuart Broad worried he would never play cricket again.

He finds himself guiding England with an exhilarating, dopamine-spraying brand of cricket two years after swimming through the dark gap. It enhances his halo’s brilliance. The person who pulled himself back from the brink and pieced together his broken career to create a stunning portrait. An England Test skipper with only a state school education, he stands out. He emotionally interacts with both the squad and the audience, allowing them to share in his experience.

He is speaking about Test cricket with all the romanticism he feels, but through the perspective of a rebel, rather than adhering to the stereotype of a cricket intellectual. That essentially sums up his kind of cricket as well: at its core, romance with rebellious undertones.

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