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Ben Stokes announces shock ODI retirement citing ‘unsustainable’ schedule

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England’s World Cup hero Ben Stokes has announced his shock retirement from one-day cricket, departing with a word of warning about the “unsustainable” schedule.

Stokes’ bloody-minded brilliance was the inspiration behind England’s historic victory in the 2019 World Cup final, defying the odds to score 84 not out in a tied match against New Zealand and then coming back out to settle things via a super over.

But in three years since that triumphant moment, the country’s star all-rounder has played just nine more times in the 50-over format, due to injuries, a mental health break and workload management.

The 31-year-old will turn out once more for a farewell appearance, at his home ground of Chester-le-Street against South Africa on Tuesday, before focusing on his Test captaincy and Twenty20 career.

And while that will be a chance to celebrate his achievements over the course of 11 years, he made it clear in a carefully worded statement – issued personally on his social media accounts then shared by his employers at the ECB – that England’s exhausting fixture list has been a factor in forcing his hand.

A born competitor, he has concluded that the demands currently being placed on the country’s all-format players are becoming impossible to manage.

“This has been an incredibly tough decision to make. I have loved every minute of playing with my mates for England. We have had an incredible journey on the way,” he said.

“As hard as a decision as this was to come to, it’s not as hard dealing with the fact I can’t give my team-mates 100% of myself in this format any more. The England shirt deserves nothing less from anyone who wears it.

“Three formats are just unsustainable for me now. Not only do I feel that my body is letting me down because of the schedule and what is expected of us, but I also feel that I am taking the place of another player who can give Jos (Buttler, captain) and the rest of the team their all. It’s time for someone else to progress as a cricketer and make incredible memories like I have over the past 11 years.

England won the World Cup on home soil in 2019
England won the World Cup on home soil in 2019 (Nick Potts/PA)

“I have loved all 104 games I have played so far, I’ve got one more, and it feels amazing to be playing my last game at my home ground in Durham. I will give everything I have to Test cricket, and now, with this decision, I feel I can also give my total commitment to the T20 format.”

England have crammed seven Tests and 12 limited-overs internationals into their summer, coming off the back of a busy Ashes winter, and are due to leave for Pakistan – the first leg of an even busier touring programme – less than a week after their final home Test.

With that kind of calendar, Stokes’ decision is a red flag for a format that is increasingly vulnerable following the abandonment of the Super League format and South Africa’s cancellation of games against Australia.

Stokes has built an ODI CV of 2,919 runs, 74 wickets and 49 catches, with one last chance to add to those tallies, but his achievements will not be measured by bare numbers.

Ben Stokes (left) and Eoin Morgan helped lead England to the top of the world in one-day cricket
Ben Stokes (left) and Eoin Morgan helped lead England to the top of the world in one-day cricket (Nick Potts/PA)

He debuted in 2011 as part of a side that had been left behind in one-day cricket and ended up as the fulcrum of Eoin Morgan’s market-leading world champions eight years later. Morgan’s England, with Stokes at its centre, became the measuring stick for every other nation to compare themselves against.

Now, neither Stokes nor Morgan will be there to defend their crown in India at next year’s World Cup. It all adds up to a new era under the leadership of Buttler and Matthew Mott, the recently appointed white-ball head coach.

“I would like to wish Jos, Matthew, the players and the support staff every success going forward. We have made great strides in white-ball cricket over the past seven years, and the future looks bright,” said Stokes, striking an optimistic tone.

“As always, the England fans have always been there for me and will continue to be there. You’re the best fans in the world. I hope we can win on Tuesday and set the series up nicely against South Africa.”

Ben Stokes will play in one last one-day international on Tuesday
Ben Stokes will play in one last one-day international on Tuesday (Zac Goodwin/PA)

Rob Key, whose first act as managing director of men’s cricket was installing Stokes as Test skipper, supported the decision, adding: “I completely understand why he has reached this conclusion.

“I’m sure that when we look back on Ben’s career and see this as one of the reasons he will play 120-plus Tests and help England in T20 matches and World Cups for many years to come. It is a typically selfless decision that will benefit England long-term.”

Speaking after Sunday’s one-day series defeat to India, Mott described Buttler’s start to life as England captain as “a baptism of fire”.

With Stokes walking away, unable to push his body and mind any further, the flames are only growing.

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