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Why Ben Stokes’ Retirement from the England ODI Side Reinforces That Cricketers Have Their Limits

England's Ben Stokes shakes hands with Jason Roy
England's Ben Stokes shakes hands with Jason Roy

England Test captain Ben Stokes has taken the difficult decision to retire from one-day internationals (ODIs). The news comes as a major shock to most in and around the English cricket bubble, but the 31-year-old plans to focus his efforts solely on the Test and Twenty20 (T20) formats of the game. Having assumed the mantle of Test skipper from Joe Root, Stokes is clearly taking his responsibilities seriously. Furthermore, England have a T20 World Cup to prepare for this winter in Australia. England are one of the leading contenders to win the 2022 T20 World Cup, priced as third favourites at 4/1 with Betway. There are promotions for first-time users, including free wagers after losing Acca bets.

Stokes was named England Test captain in April and, in tandem with new head coach, Brendan McCullum, has managed to breathe new life into the side immediately. A comfortable Test series win over New Zealand has helped blow away the cobwebs and given the ‘Barmy Army’ something to finally cheer about.

With England still having plenty of work to do to return to the top of the ICC Test world rankings, Stokes has acknowledged that taking part in “three formats” of the sport is “unsustainable for [him] now”. It’s still a huge disappointment to many England fans, given that Stokes was an integral part of the country’s 2019 ODI World Cup final success against New Zealand. Stokes’ 84 not-out ensured England would take the Kiwis to the now-legendary Super Over, during which England squeaked through by the narrowest of margins.

However, Stokes admitted that he “can’t give [his] team-mates 100% of [himself]” at ODI level anymore. The upper echelons of English and world cricket should heed Stokes’ quote stating that his “body is letting [him] down because of the schedule”.

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Sky Sports’ pundit and former England Test captain, Nasser Hussain, described the global cricket schedule as “absolutely crazy at the moment”. Stokes has also confirmed he was pulling out of The Hundred competition next month, with these headline-making short-format competitions seemingly woven into the annual calendar without consideration for the Test and ODI schedule.

Hussein said that he anticipated the England hierarchy would have wrapped Stokes in cotton wool, including “being rested from various white-ball tournaments and formats”. However, this hasn’t been the case and Stokes has taken the bold move to pull the plug altogether. Stokes is no stranger to making big decisions when it comes to his mental and physical wellbeing. The Durham ace took a four-month sabbatical last summer following the passing of his late father and the grind of playing with recurring injuries.

Stokes may also have one eye on the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) new schedule in the coming years, which could see a global men’s competition every year. The ICC has said there’ll be an element of pruning back on the ODI front but the fact that the 2023, 2027 and 2031 ODI World Cups are already scheduled – along with the 2025 and 2029 Champions Trophies – suggests that the cull won’t be happening soon enough for Stokes’ mind and body. There’s also the small matter of a string of domestic T20 leagues promoted by all ICC members throughout the campaign – and overseas touring commitments for national teams.

When you combine it all, it’s little wonder that Stokes wants to focus his efforts on being the best possible Test captain. Stokes skipped this year’s IPL in favour of playing for his country and he has already intimated that he could do so again next year ahead of a huge Ashes series on home soil.

The sad reality is that players wishing to succeed and star in all formats of cricket now must dedicate their lives and bodies 365 days of the year. It’s an unsustainable pursuit of glory that even the likes of Stokes have had to admit defeat on.