Ben Stokes hopes retiring from ODIs ‘earlier than I’d like’ helps long-term aims

Ben Stokes admitted his retirement from one-day internationals is happening earlier than he anticipated but the England Test captain hopes the decision prolongs his career into his mid-30s.

Stokes was at the forefront of England’s greatest moment in the 50-over format after starring in the 2019 World Cup final, but he makes his 105th and final ODI appearance on Tuesday against South Africa.

He reiterated his warning about an “unsustainable” schedule, which comes with England halfway through a programme of 12 white-ball fixtures in 25 days this month, while they have seven Tests this summer.

Ben Stokes was central to England's 2019 World Cup win (Nick Potts/PA)
Ben Stokes was central to England’s 2019 World Cup win (Nick Potts/PA)

And ahead of his farewell ODI match on his home ground of Chester-le-Street, the 31-year-old felt something had to give in order for him to continue prospering with bat, ball and in the field.

“The schedule for me feels unsustainable,” he said on Sky Sports News. “I didn’t like the feeling of not being able to contribute in the way I wanted to – as an all-rounder I wanted to contribute with the bat and ball.

“When I thought about it long and hard, I felt I don’t feel I can do that in all three formats. I always knew that at some point I would have to choose one of the white-ball formats. 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.

“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 all-rounder 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.

“Him bowling is actually the thing he wants to be able to do, he doesn’t just want to go and be a batter, he wants to be able to contribute as an all-rounder.

“To do that he feels this is the best way. I’m hoping and I’m betting that this is what gets him up to 120-plus Test matches.”