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Ben Stokes believes his shock retirement from one-day cricket should act as a red flag for the international game, warning players “are not cars, you can’t just fill us up”.
Monday’s surprise announcement on social media came with a pointed suggestion from Stokes that England’s fixture schedule was “unsustainable” and that he no longer felt able to meet its demands.
Speaking ahead of his final ODI appearance against South Africa, the Test captain expanded on his decision to step away from the 50-over game at the age of 31 and hinted that others may find themselves pushed to the wall if the issue is not addressed.
Asked on BBC’s Test Match Special if his departure should be seen as a wake-up call for authorities, he said: “I don’t know, I guess so. The more cricket that is played, the better for the sport, but you want a product that is of the highest quality.
“You want the best players to be playing as much as you possibly can, all the time. It isn’t just me or us, you see it all around the world now where teams are having to rest some players in a certain series so they feel like they are getting a break.
“We are not cars, you can’t just fill us up and we’ll go out there and be ready to be fuelled up again.
“I just feel like there is too much cricket rammed in for people to play all three formats now.
“It is a lot harder than it used to be. I look back to when I used to do all three and it didn’t feel like it was as jam-packed.
“Obviously you want to play as much cricket as you possibly can but when it is making you feel tired, sore and you’ve got to look towards five or six months down the road for what you’re doing in the here and now, it is probably not the best thing.”
Zeroing in on a recent fixture pile-up that saw a three-match ODI tour of the Netherlands take place in the brief window between the second and third Tests against New Zealand, he added: “We had a Test series and then the one-day team had a series going on at the same time – that was a bit silly.”
Stokes admitted his retirement at the age of 31, three years on from his player-of-the-match heroics in England’s World Cup final triumph and one more away from the title defence in India, came sooner than he anticipated.
But he had a lightbulb moment during the first one-dayer against India last week and realised a hard call needed to be made.
11 years and countless ODI memories ❤️
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) July 18, 2022
“I always knew that at some point I would have to choose one of the white-ball formats,” he said. “I just didn’t know which one.
“It was never going to be an easy one, which one. With me being captain of the Test team and how much cricket we have coming up, I do have to look after my body. It has come earlier than I would have liked – at 31 giving up one of the formats.
“But hopefully when I am 35 or 36 and still playing Test cricket I’ll be very happy with this decision I have made.”
Rob Key, whose first act upon being appointed as managing director of men’s cricket was to install Stokes as Test skipper, believes the all-rounder has acted altruistically, especially as the decision may come with “financial implications”.
While the monetary terms of Stokes’ central contract could come under review, Key feels England’s Test and Twenty20 teams will stand to gain enormously from the player lightening his workload.
“It may well end up having financial implications to Ben Stokes in terms of his contract,” Key said on Sky Sports News.
“That’s why it’s a selfless decision. He could easily have said, ‘No, no, I’m the key’ and kept getting picked in the 50-over team. But he wants to do the Test job as best as he can, he wants to take England’s Test team forward.
“I was probably surprised at the timing but I’m not surprised that he’s had to give one format away. I think it’s a good decision from Ben that England will benefit from in the long term.
“I’m hoping and I’m betting that this is what gets him up to 120-plus Test matches.”