England Test captain Ben Stokes, who is playing his last ODI game in international cricket on Tuesday, has urged the cricket administrators to not treat players like ‘cars’ by packing the calendar with plenty of games, calling for a sustainable schedule of matches.
Stokes on Monday announced his sudden retirement from ODI cricket, saying that the rigours of playing all three formats of the game were “unsustainable” for him and he was not able to give his 100 percent to the team in the 50-over format.
Notably, England have been playing non-stop cricket in the last couple of months, with as many as 17 cricket days in July alone, followed by a three-match Test series against South Africa next month.
Speaking ahead of the first ODI between South Africa and England at Chester-le-Street, the all-rounder went firmer on his comments the previous day about an unsustainable schedule and felt the on-field product will suffer if nothing changes.
“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. 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 told BBC’s Test Match Special.
“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 and all that. 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.
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, and 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,” he added.
The 31-year-old, who scored only 48 runs and bowled only three overs in the ODI series against India, which England lost 1-2, said he took the decision to call it quits in the 50-over format after the first game against the Rohit Sharma-led team.
“After that one-day game, it hit me in the face. In 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,” he said.
The England Test skipper also gave examples of Stuart Broad (36) and James Anderson (39), who have been able to sustain their cricket career because they play only the red-ball format. He also revealed a conversation with Broad where the latter spoke about playing a limited number of games as the reason for his longevity.
“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, and still playing Test cricket, I can look back on this decision and say I’m very happy with it,” Stokes said.