Ben Stokes: England have 'reshaped Test cricket' in just three matches under Brendon McCullum

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Ben Stokes: England have 'reshaped Test cricket' in just three matches under Brendon McCullum - AP
Ben Stokes: England have 'reshaped Test cricket' in just three matches under Brendon McCullum - AP

Ben Stokes believes his team are reshaping Test cricket both on and off the field with their all-or-nothing approach that will continue against India at Edgbaston on Friday.

“I don’t even think about draws,” said Stokes on Thursday as he announced two changes to the XI - James Anderson replacing Jamie Overton and Sam Billings stepping in for Ben Foakes, who has not recovered sufficiently from Covid.

England need to beat India to level a series currently at 2-1 from 2021 and continue the 100 per cent record under Stokes. Overton is left out despite his 97 on debut last week.

“What we've managed to do over the last three weeks is, I don’t know, reshape Test cricket with the way that we played,” he said. “We want people to enjoy watching us play. I think people are enjoying watching us play because they don’t know what they are going to get, but they know how we are going to play.”

The team has been revolutionised in three matches by Stokes and Brendon McCullum with aggressive batting, and chasing down three successive scores over 275, grabbing attention. But Stokes believes they have changed in other subtle ways too.

He insists he only bowled four overs in Leeds Test because he wanted to push the others bowlers to go beyond their comfort levels and net sessions have been noticeably more relaxed too. The players have even arrived later at the ground on match days, although with a 10.30am start this week they will need to be a little earlier for breakfast.

“I said after day four there was actually a method to why I didn't bowl,” he said. “Broady in particular wasn't very happy with me then but I really wanted to push the bowlers as far as I possibly could, to make them realise what they can do.

“Matt Potts, 23 years of age in his third Test match must have taken a lot of confidence knowing that he can back up spell after spell after spell after spell. Broady 36, nearly bowling 50 overs in the game, always looks threatening, Leachy bowling 70 overs in the game on a wicket that's not really known for spinners doing well.

“So yeah, I just wanted to push them as far as I possibly could and they managed to bowl the best team out in the world twice with three seamers and a spinner.”

McCullum has introduced various ball games before practice to relax the players. At Trent Bridge it was a penalty shoot-out and on Thursday he was hitting a tennis ball in the air to coaches who had to run and head it while wearing a helmet.

“Test cricket comes with enough pressure on it so now it’s taking the unnecessary pressures away and just making everyone feel comfortable in their preparation and how they want to do it,” said Stokes.

“It’s just about letting the lads prepare how they want to prepare – at the end of the day they have to perform so just let them do what they need to do.”

Stokes gave full-throated support to Zak Crawley, the only player who has underperformed so far, confirming he will keep his place “regardless” of what happens against India.

“When we picked the squad before we’d even played a Test match the squad was picked on the basis that every player in every position is the best player in England to carry us forward in the way that we want to.

“This team and this squad is going to be given a lot of time to perform. Zak Crawley is still in my plans and  Brendon's plans going forward, to make this to make this Test team great again,” he said.

India confirmed Jasprit Bumrah will lead the side for the first time in place of Covid-hit Rohit Sharma with Rishabh Pant as vice-captain.

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