There was a time when the idea of Ben Stokes was better than the reality.
The thought of having a bowler who can send it down at 90mph and stroll out to bat and make a quick fire hundred is obviously one that will get the pulse of any cricket fan racing. But Stokes wasn’t that for a big part of his career, he was one of those things some of the time and inconsistent with bat and ball more often than not.
He didn’t make an ODI hundred until five years after his debut, be was regularly going for runs with the ball. Now there is no doubt as to who is the best fast-bowling all-rounder in the world.
Even still, he is a better batsman in ODIs than he is a bowler. Over the last two years he has averaged 56 with the bat and 48 with the ball. His role as a bowler has often been as the sixth option and he has been used as an impact bowler rather than someone expected to send down 10 overs, but he probably should have better numbers considering his unbelievable talent.
But with England regularly going into a match with seven bowling options, if Joe Root’s part-time offies can be considered a real choice, Stokes doesn’t actually need to bowl to keep his place in this team. That this England team can do without Stokes as a bowler says a lot about what Moeen Ali brings to the team, but it is great to have him in the side to be used when needed.
What Stokes brings to this team is a real sense of belief. He may not be a captain, but he is still a leader of the pack. He would never back down from a challenge, and he has every right to feel that way. It is rare that he doesn’t step up when needed.