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‘I now realise talking is such a powerful thing’ – ‘Buzzing’ Ben Stokes opens up on his Ashes comeback journey

'I Now Realise Talking Is Such A Powerful Thing' - 'Buzzing' Ben Stokes Opens Up On His Ashes Comeback Journey
by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

Ben Stokes, following his addition to England’s Ashes squad, has opened up on his return to action after taking a break from cricket to manage his mental health and to recover from a finger injury.

Writing in The Mirror, Stokes explained how his finger injury was causing him more of an issue than he acknowledged, but also how “events off the field” and sustained time spent under Covid-19 protocols had taken their toll. Stokes’ father, Ged, passed away following a battle with brain cancer in December 2020.

“I probably didn’t realise just how much of an issue the finger was causing me until I got it sorted the second time around,” he said. “But I had also been struggling with bubble life and events off the field. I don’t want anyone to feel the way I did, because I wasn’t in a good place and I’m not afraid to admit it. I was in a real dark place and having some difficult thoughts. I was always one of those people who wouldn’t talk about how they are feeling and just keep it internal and crack on. I now realise talking is such a powerful thing and it has completely changed me.”

Stokes, who said he was “buzzing for the Ashes”, credited his wife, Clare, and close friends, including England Test captain Joe Root, with aiding his recovery. He also revealed Root’s reaction upon hearing Stokes would be available for the Ashes, one which will be relatable for plenty of England fans.

“To be able to confirm to Joe Root that I would be available to join the tour from the start after my second successful surgery on my finger was a great moment,” he said. “Rooty’s reaction when I told him was simply: ‘Oh bloody hell, that’s good.’

“He said it was great to hear me sounding so well and that is the truth of it. I feel much better about everything from my finger to my mental well-being. I know I can focus once again on playing my best cricket Down Under this winter.”

Stokes also revealed in detail the surgery which left his finger “like new again”.

“My ligaments and tendons had been glued down from the scar tissue that had grown to help my finger heal from the first surgery. Doug [Campbell, Stokes’ surgeon] actually illustrated it using the neck tie he was wearing at our consultation. I was then able to see exactly what he meant during the surgery itself because I was awake and could watch the whole thing which was pretty cool.

“He took the screws out and scraped away the scar tissue and my finger was like new again. As soon as I could, I was moving it the day after in physio and then I picked up a bat four days later. I couldn’t wait to get into the nets. Once I was hitting balls without any pain and without thinking about the position my finger was in I thought… I’m back.”

Stokes captained England to a 3-0 ODI series whitewash against Pakistan without being able to properly grip his bat, and said being able to do so again has given him “such a lift”.

“Looking back at the summer, playing with a finger that wasn’t getting any better and causing me huge frustration alongside everything else that was going on just added up,” he said. “It gave me such a lift to be able to hold a bat again properly.”

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