Ben Stokes ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://www.espncricinfo.com/cricketers/ben-stokes-311158) has emerged as an injury doubt for the opening match of the World Cup between England and New Zealand in Ahmedabad on Thursday. Stokes, the Player of the Match in the 2019 final between the same teams, came out of ODI retirement in August despite a long-standing knee injury and is not expected to bowl a ball at the World Cup, having made himself available only as a specialist batter.
But he did not feature in England’s warm-up game against Bangladesh in Guwahati on Monday due to a hip complaint. Ahead of their final training session before Thursday’s curtain-raiser against New Zealand, England’s captain Jos Buttler ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://www.espncricinfo.com/cricketers/jos-buttler-308967) said that they would not “take big risks” with players’ fitness early in the tournament.
“He’s got a slight niggle with his hip,” Buttler said when asked about Stokes’ non-involvement against Bangladesh. “But fingers crossed that it’ll be good news for us. We’ll see. He’s working hard with the physios, and we’ll know more when the guys arrive for training today.
“We’ll make the right call. If he’s not fit to play, he’s not fit to play. If he is, we can make that decision. It’s not the time to take big risks on someone at the start of the tournament. Nearer the end, maybe you do take more of a risk with people’s injuries, but it’s going to be a long tournament.”
Stokes scored 182 against New Zealand ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://www.espncricinfo.com/series/new-zealand-in-england-2023-1336039/england-vs-new-zealand-3rd-odi-1336054/full-scorecard) at The Oval in mid-September in just his third innings on his return to ODI cricket. He was rested for the final game of that series at Lord’s, and was not due to play in either of England’s warm-up games in Guwahati; the first, against India, was washed out after they had named a 13-man side at the toss.
England are due to select their playing XI for the opening match after training at the Narendra Modi Stadium on Wednesday night. “We’ll see how the guys pull up here at training today – and post-training – and then we can make our decisions,” Buttler said.
If Stokes is not deemed fit enough to feature on Thursday, he is likely to be replaced at No. 4 by Harry Brook ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://www.espncricinfo.com/cricketers/harry-brook-911707), who batted in that position in the warm-up against Bangladesh, and is the designated spare batter in England’s squad. Brook has only played six ODIs – and has scored just 123 runs – but England are confident he can convert his Test and T20 success into the 50-over format.
“We all know what a fantastic player he is,” Buttler said of Brook. “He’s at the start of an international career that’s been outstanding in T20 cricket and the Test format. He’s not played loads of ODI cricket, but it’s a format that should suit him perfectly.
“It’ll allow him to bat for a long time and make big runs, and that’s something he enjoys doing. He’s got all the shots, and we know from Test cricket that he can play big innings. It’s a format that should suit him really well.”