England Test team chief coach Brendon McCullum has backed all-rounder Ben Stokes’ decision to retire from ODI cricket, saying it will allow the 31-year-old to channelise his energies in the longest format of the game.
Stokes, the England Test skipper, announced earlier this week that he was quitting the 50-over game due to “unsustainable” schedule, shocking the cricketing world. In his retirement statement, Stokes said, “I feel that my body is letting me down because of the schedule and what is expected of us.”McCullum felt Stokes had taken the right decision as it will help him focus more on England’s Test captaincy.
“Yeah of course I am,” McCullum told SENZ Breakfast when asked if he was happy with the call taken by the talismanic all-rounder. “Stokes is the skipper of our Test side and the job that I’ve seen him do with this team in a very short period of time really excites me about what he can do with this side, particularly now that he’ll have more available time rather than jumping from series to series to series.”
Under Stokes’ captaincy, England have won four back-to-back Tests, including the three-Test series against World Test champions New Zealand and the rescheduled fifth Test against India at Edgbaston, where the home team managed a record run-chase to win by seven wickets.
“I guess England’s a slightly different set-up to most other world cricket teams because they play a lot of cricket, they’re a wanted commodity around the world and they’re able to generate such a fan following and also the financial returns that the game requires to support 16 Counties and the big organisation that is English cricket,” opined McCullum.
“Obviously we would’ve loved to see Ben Stokes playing in three forms of the game, he’s an out and out superstar and we’ve seen what he’s been able to achieve, but sometimes things have to give way and I look at it as a positive that he’s going to have the time to really immerse himself in the Test side.
“I also think it’s a real mark of the respect of the man that he’s sort of bucking the trend of the short version of the game and actually trying to focus on what he sees as a huge task trying to get Test cricket back to the levels, or even exceed the levels, that it’s had in the past. I think it’s a noble play from him,” the New Zealander added.
Asked if Stokes had set a precedent for others to follow by retiring from ODI cricket, McCullum said, the cricketer has several reasons to quit, not just the workload.”There are not too many all-format players. He’s (Stokes) probably in a luxurious position that he’s able to do that, but also with the demands of the schedules and with his heightened schedule as Test captain, it would’ve become too much. He also has a young family and there’s a lot going on.
“I don’t know if it’s symbolic of where the game itself is at around the globe, but I see it as an absolute positive to be honest. I’m looking forward to being able to spend even more time with ‘Stokesy’ trying to get this thing cracking.”