Ben Stokes better than me at 24 - Ian Botham
Former England all-rounder Sir Ian Botham feels that Ben Stokes is a better player than he was at the age of 24 after smashing a record breaking double hundred against South Africa in the second Test in Cape Town.
Stokes' innings of 258 took 198-balls and was laced with 11 sixes and 30 boundaries while sharing a 399-run stand with wicket-keeper batsman Jonny Bairstow.
The partnership between Stokes and Bairstow progressed at nearly seven runs an over and pushed the England total to 629 for six before Alastair Cook declared the innings.
In his career for England so far, Stokes has 1282 runs at an average of 33.73 along with three hundreds while also accounting for 47 wickets including two five-wicket hauls from 21 Test matches.
Botham on the other hand had scored six Test hundreds and accounted for 14 five-wicket hauls in his career by the time he turned 25 while also becoming the captain.
However, Botham feels that Stokes is a master of all the three aspects of cricket – batting, bowling and fielding – and can only get better with time.
“As a player, he’s probably better than I was at 24.
“What I did was yesterday’s news, what he did is today’s news.
“He is not a jack of all trades and master of none.
“He is actually probably master of the three most important assets you need: batting, bowling and fielding.
“His bowling can only get better.
“He has all the attributes: he has pace; he can swing the ball; he can reverse it; he can bowl orthodox.
“And he is terrific fielder close to the bat, in the covers or midwicket, backward point, on the boundary.”
Stokes’ double hundred in Cape Town came off 163 balls and broke Botham’s record of scoring it in 220 balls against India in 1982.
Stating that he is happy for his record to be broken, Botham expressed his joy at being able to witness such a display of batting live at the ground.
“I held that record for 33 years, so it was about time it got broken.
“I enjoyed watching Ben Stokes.
“I have been a massive fan of his since I first saw him on the international scene.
“I think he has got tremendous, enormous potential to go all the way.
“That was one of those moments when you can just say ‘I was there’.
“When you think back to Headingley ‘81, I know there were only about 10,000 people in the ground but I have met three-and-a-half million who say they were.
“Well, I was there for Ben Stokes. It was fun.
“And Ben Stokes will be enjoying it as well. He’ll see it as fun as well.”
Nevertheless, Botham also warned that fans must not expect Stokes to churn out top notch performances every time he comes onto the field to play for England.
Also citing how former England captain Mike Brearley allowed him to play freely, Botham felt that Stokes must be allowed to play his natural game.
“You walk out and you empty the bars rather then fill them and it’s a nice feeling.
“Then you get out and you see them all going back in for a beer and you think ‘sorry, lads: can’t do it every day.’
“And he can’t do it every day, either.
“That’s what people have to remember.
“You have to give him the right to fail.
“Just let him go. Mike Brearley did absolutely the same with me.
“There was no leash in any way.”
The second Test in Cape Town ended in a draw after South Africa went on to post 627 for seven by riding on a patient double hundred from Hashim Amla.
The third Test match of the Basil D’Oliveira Trophy will get underway on 14th of January in Johannesburg with England leading the series 1-0.
© Cricket World 2016