What’s the story?
England’s limited-overs skipper Eoin Morgan has backed Ben Stokes to carry his impressive form from the Indian Premier League (IPL) to the upcoming edition of the Champions Trophy. The 30-year old affirmed that the experience of playing alongside and overshadowing the likes of Steven Smith and MS Dhoni will boost the Rising Pune Supergiant all rounder’s confidence.
“The talent and ability in the (England) side is second to none. I firmly believe this is the most talented group of players I've ever played with. It is important to recognise the Champions Trophy is the halfway stage towards the 2019 World Cup and that's the real trophy we want to be lifting. That is the ultimate goal. It (CT) is a very ruthless tournament - you have to win every game. Going in with that expectation and hype is very good for us as a group,” Morgan told BBC Sport.
He added, “He goes out playing in the same team (RPS) as the Australian captain Steve Smith and an Indian legend in MS Dhoni and outperforming those guys gives him an abundance of confidence. It is not only his own confidence, it will rub off on the (England) team as well.”
Having picked up for a jaw-dropping amount of INR 14.5 crore (approximately USD 2.16 million) in the auction in February, Stokes is the highest paid overseas cricketer in IPL history. There was an air of anticipation surrounding his entry into the tournament and whether he could vindicate the franchise’s decision to unfurl a massive sum of money for him.
The heart of the matter
With a 32-ball 50 against Kings XI Punjab, Stokes made his mark in Pune’s second game of the season. As the tournament progressed, he began to single-handedly prise out victories for his side. From his previous four games, the all-rounder won the Player of the Match award on three occasions.
The latest of those came against Gujarat Lions at the MCA Stadium. Chasing 162, RPS were reduced to 42/4 before Stokes turned things around in spectacular fashion. The left-hander smashed an unbeaten 63-ball 103 to pull off a splendid triumph.
Even as Stokes will continue to be an integral part of Pune’s fortunes in the latter part of the IPL season, England are set to be without his services when they host Ireland for two ODIs on Friday and Sunday. The all important Champions Trophy is scheduled to begin on June 1.
While Smith may have scored more runs than Stokes in the tournament thus far, the latter has had a bigger impact on Pune's remarkable turnaround from a woeful run last year. The dynamic cricketer will certainly gain plenty of confidence from his IPL stint.