After another game-changing performance in the final of a major tournament, can Ben Stokes be called the greatest England cricketer of all time?
“Yeah, he can be in the conversation for sure,” a confident Jos Buttler answered in the post-match press conference.
Hailed as the “superman” by Eoin Morgan after his Player of the Match-winning heroics in the 2019 ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup final, Stokes already had his redemption story after a forgettable final in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup in 2016 where he conceded four sixes, and the match, to Carlos Brathwaite in the final over.
“Everyone back home is hopefully trying to be the next Ben Stokes,” Morgan had said after Stokes’ superlative effort in England’s title win at Lord’s three years ago.
In another packed stadium at the MCG in 2022, Stokes wrote another chapter into his adventurous career – this time compiling his maiden T20I fifty in the final of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2022 against Pakistan with the team in a spot of bother.
“He’s a true match-winner, and he’s been there in those scenarios time and time again. He just has a lot of know-how for how to do that,” Buttler said.
Stokes had come into the tournament with his place in England’s dynamic batting line-up under scrutiny. A batting average of 19 in the format did not help his cause. But he stepped it up in two crunch games (a 42* against Sri Lanka with the game and survival of the team on the line preceded this knock).
On Sunday, he watched as England lost three wickets in the Powerplay to some hostile bowling from Pakistan. With skipper Buttler back in the hut, the onus was on Stokes to carry England home.
While he got off to a slow start, Stokes ensured he stayed until the end, keeping the required run rate within reach to make an unbeaten 52 off 49 balls and take England to their second T20 World Cup title.
“I think it certainly wasn’t his most fluent innings or probably didn’t time the ball as well as he could, but you knew he was never going to go down without a fight and stand up and be there at the end,” Buttler added.
“We were immensely lucky to have him, and he’s one of the great players of English cricket.”
Speaking about Stokes’ redemption after the unforgettable night at the Wankhede six years ago, Buttler joked that it was a “shame he did his documentary a year early”.
“It’s an amazing story really, isn’t it? I think all these big moments, like I’ll always remember his words to Jofra about how things don’t define you, and I think he’s obviously never let that 2016 final sort of push him back, and you think of the things he’s gone on to achieve in his career since then is just amazing.”
Buttler also agreed that this England team, which now holds the ODI and T20 World Cups together, is in the conversation to be the greatest white-ball team of all time.
“To have won in 2019 and now win this T20 World Cup, as well, it just shows the vision at the start that people had where we could get to as an England white ball team.
“There’s no reason why we shouldn’t go on from strength to strength.”