Ben Stokes says he has been aware for some time that he would have to quit one of the white-ball formats due to an “unsustainable” schedule, but it hit him “in the face” that his time was up in ODIs after a game against India last week.
On Tuesday Stokes led England onto the field at his homeground, the Riverside, in his final ODI after announcing his retirement on Monday.
Stokes said the decision became “easy” after last week’s first ODI against India, when he felt unable to contribute fully as an all-rounder.
“There was a number of things,” Stokes told Sky. “The schedule, and almost everything that is expected of us these days, for me personally at the moment just feels unsustainable.
“It was actually after the first one-day game. When you start thinking about those sorts of things it’s quite clear. One person I spoke to, probably the best thing that was said to me was that “if there’s any doubt, there’s no doubt”.
“It’s hard to know you’re being looked after, managed for all the other cricket that’s coming up. This England shirt deserves 100% and unfortunately I didn’t like the feeling of not being able to contribute as I want to, as an all-rounder, with bat, ball. Also the feeling of stopping someone else being able to progress in this format with England, who I know is able to give the captain and the coach everything.
“When I thought long and hard I didn’t think I could do that in all three formats, obviously how the body felt after the Test series coming into this. It was made easy knowing I couldn’t go out and give my all.
“I always knew at some point I would have to choose one of the white ball formats to continue with, I just didn’t know which one.
“After that game it hit me in the face. I had a quick chat with Jos [Buttler] after the game, I said that if the game was in a different position I’d have bowled more for him. We had five minutes together, he said you don’t owe the team anything and that I had a lot of cricket coming up. That was nice to hear.
“I went away and had five minutes to myself, I told him I almost felt a bit useless that I can’t do that. It’s not a nice feeling, knowing I have to look after myself, the captain is trying to look after me, the medical team and the coach as well. It’s international cricket you can’t be doing that.”
Stokes said he had chosen ODI cricket because T20s were less physically taxing, and added that he wants to play for England until his mid-thirties and rack up Test caps.
“It was never going to be an easy one, which one,” he said. "Being the captain of the Test team, with so much cricket coming up, I have to look after my body because I want to play as long as I possibly can.
“I look at the way Jimmy [Anderson] and Broady’s [Stuart Broad] careers have gone when they stopped playing white-ball cricket [in 2015].
“I asked Stuart if he felt that not playing white ball cricket was a reason he is still playing now, 160 Tests. He said without a shadow of a doubt, yes. I want to play 140-150 Tests for England.
“It’s come a lot earlier than I would have liked at 31 years old, giving one of the formats up. T20 bowl 2-3 overs here and there. Longevity I have thought about. Hopefully when I’m 35/36 still playing Test cricket I can look back on this decision and say I’m very happy with it.”
Stokes departs with a parting shot at cricket’s schedulers.
“I always want to contribute to the team, be on it 100% of the time,” he said. “We are not cars where you can fill us up with petrol and let us go. It has an effect on you, the playing, the travel, it does add up. As I said, the schedule at the moment seems very jam packed and it’s asking a lot of the players to keep putting in 100% of effort in every time they walk onto the field.
“Teams are looking at their squads and wondering where they can give players a break. If you want the best product possible you want the best players out there, producing that. If teams and organisations feel players need a break to look after them in one format, I don’t think it looks good. I look at us playing a Test match and the one day team were playing at the same time as well. It’s odd to think about.”