Stokes played the final three Tests of this summer’s Ashes series as a specialist batter and will fulfil the same role when he returns to England’s ODI side on Friday, most likely at No. 4. He declined to elaborate on his plan to manage his injury, but did not rule out the prospect of surgery between the World Cup and England’s Test tour to India early next year.
Speaking to the press for the first time since coming out of ODI retirement, Stokes said that he had been unable to resist the prospect of being involved in England’s defence of the trophy they won for the first time at Lord’s four years ago: “Going to India and trying to defend the World Cup was a big reason.”
He will feature in England’s four ODIs against New Zealand over the next eight days before flying to India at the end of the month. And while he said that the World Cup is “the only thing I’m thinking about”, Stokes revealed that he has been speaking to medical specialists to devise a long-term plan for his knee.
“It’s been a good chance to rest up and get into a good position for these one-dayers and the World Cup afterwards,” he said. “I’ve had some good conversations with specialists in different fields around rehab and a plan going forward after the World Cup. There will be the potential of something happening after the World Cup.”
He told the BBC: “There’s actually quite a long time off after the World Cup. I’ve been having some good conversations with some specialists [about] rehab and physios, the surgeons, the guys who know what they are doing. There is a plan in place. I know what’s going to happen; I just don’t think now is the right time to say what I’m doing.
“When we do what we need to do to give myself a chance of getting back to being a genuine allrounder, there will be a time when I can say what I’m doing. We have got a very good plan in place. I want to be playing next summer as a genuine allrounder; this winter is all about playing this World Cup, then getting this knee sorted.”
While Stokes did not specify the details of his plan, he appears unlikely to play much of a role with the ball during England’s five-Test series in India. He will also have to discuss the possibility of a retention on his INR 16.25 crore (£1.6 million) contract with Chennai Super Kings in the coming months, though said that IPL 2024 is “too far away to worry about”.
Stokes quit ODIs last year citing an unsustainable schedule, and insisted on Thursday that at the time, he did not envisage changing his mind. “Back then, it was: ‘I’m done’,” he said. “But as time goes on and the opportunities come closer and closer, you think completely differently to when I made the decision.
“There were obviously a lot of things to think about. First and foremost, I needed to see how I got through the Ashes and then think about what I had after the World Cup. When I felt like I had to make a decision and make myself available, it was an easy one to make.”
The lure of becoming back-to-back 50-over world champions proved too strong to resist. “The words ‘World Cup’ are pretty inspiring,” Stokes added. “Going into this one as world champions, playing a part in that in 2019, which was an unbelievable moment for us as a team and myself… the idea of going in and potentially being able to win back-to-back World Cups was one of the big things.
“Everyone knows – and it’s not arrogant for us to say – that we’re a very good team. We’ve got a very good depth of personnel to be able to choose from and our record since the World Cup has been very good. We like our chances, but the thinking about World Cups is who can handle the pressure best on any given day.”
Stokes does not expect it will take him long to adjust back to 50-over cricket, 14 months after his last appearance in the format. “I’ve played 100 games, so I do have some idea of how to do it,” he said, laughing. “Coming in and not being captain can actually be quite refreshing.”
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98