Melbourne: Former Australian skipper Ricky Ponting heaped praise on England all-rounder Ben Stokes, saying that the latter has started playing with a lot of maturity.
Stokes was the 'Man of the Match' in the recently concluded ICC Men's Cricket World Cup final against New Zealand as he scored 84 runs, chasing 242 to win their maiden 50-over World Cup.
"It seems like he's playing with a lot of maturity. He doesn't seem like he's in much of a rush now as he might have been. The thing about his personality as well, he's a big, strong, brash guy with a bit of an ego... and I think as a younger person probably everything was flat out — one speed," cricket.com.au quoted Ponting as saying.
"To me, (during the World Cup) it seems like he (was) able to understand situations and play situations accordingly. That's a bit of maturity and understanding his own game and understanding what his team needs him to do," he added.
Stokes missed out on the 2017-18 Ashes due to his involvement in a court case after he was involved in a street fight in Bristol. Later, he was found not guilty of affray.
Following his return to cricket, Stokes is yet to score a century or take a five-wicket haul in the Test format.
Ahead of the upcoming Ashes series, Ponting opined that Stokes is a key member of England and even went on to say that the player is the real heartbeat of the 'Three Lions'.
"He's a key man and more a key man because I think he's that real heartbeat for their team, a bit like 'Freddie' Flintoff in Ashes series gone by — whenever they were in trouble and they needed something, they tend to go to those sort of guys, and Australia need to keep him quiet if we're going to win the series," Ponting said.
"I think it's important that the Australian players don't let him find (form) early in the series. There are certain players you know that you've just got to hopefully get on top early... Stokes is one that I think they need to... make sure that he doesn't get away from (them) — and he doesn't have much of an impact on the series," he added.
New Zealand-born Stokes played a crucial role in England's World Cup victory as he starred for the hosts in the final match against New Zealand. The left-hander played a knock of 84 runs in the final and finished with 465 runs in the tournament.
Stokes is also likely to receive knighthood after showcasing a match-winning performance in the final as both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt expressed their desire to give the player 'knighthood'.
The left-handed batsman was also nominated for 'New Zealander of the Year' alongside Kiwi skipper Kane Williamson.
England had scripted history on 14 July by claiming their first-ever World Cup title. The final will be remembered for ages as neither the 50-over nor the subsequent Super Over could separate the teams.
In the end, England were declared as the winner on the basis of boundary countback rule. The hosts had hit 26 boundaries as compared to New Zealand's 17 boundaries in the match.
England will next take on Australia in the Ashes, set to begin from 3 August.