2016 it was, and it was another festival for cricket lovers. It was April 3, and it was the day of the finals of World T20. Eden Gardens was ready to witness England becoming the champions. West Indies needed 24 runs off the final over. The whole of England had almost assumed England winning, and many had imagined their team lifting the trophy. Ben Stokes was bowling the final over. Carlos Brathwaite was on strike. The feeling in West Indies was quite opposite to the one in England. Very few around the world gave Brathwaite a chance.
Stokes bowled the first ball, the ball went for a six. 18 runs were still to be scored off 5 balls. The six ignited a hope that something unbelievable might happen. It was still considered out of reach, except for a few extreme optimists. The next ball went sailing too. The target suddenly seemed closer. Now, everybody was talking about something big happening. 12 runs off 4 balls looked gettable, even though not very easy. Two balls later West Indies players were seen dancing with joy, while the England players had their heads down in dismay. Though a few more things led to the loss, Stokes’ final over had the major contribution. Ben Stokes was the villian on the day.
A year later Stokes was again portrayed as the villian on the streets of England. There was trail on him for an alleged brawl in Bristol. He missed the Ashes that year. He came back to the squad soon though. He was later ajudged not guilty. He was still a member of the England’s team in all formats. But he was only a member, not the protagonist. Many said he still couldn’t find his best.
Another year after Christ’s birth went by. It was 2019. Another important year in cricketing history. It would mark the beginning of the ICC World Test Championship. But before that, would be the ICC Cricket World Cup. England would go onto win the World Cup in the most unimaginable fashion. Ben Stokes would play a heroic innings, and when it did not prove to be enough, he would go on to score 8 more runs in 3 more balls.
He was the hero of the day. Man of the match in the finals of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019. Stokes, from being the villian in the World T20 finals, became the hero of 2019 World Cup.
It was then time for Stokes the test player. There wouldn’t be a bigger stage for him. The Ashes was about to begin. And when it began, Australia won the first test, and drew second. Another win for Australia would see them retain the Ashes. Australia’s score of 179, which first seemed very little, looked good after they bowled England out for 67 in the first innings. They set a target of 360 for England. Seemed improbable.
A good partnership between Joe Root and Joe Denly ignited a hope, same as in 2016 after the first six by Brathwaite. But like in 2016, the target still seemed quite a distance away.
On both the ocassions, Stokes made something improbable happen in cricket. If the first one was something that Ben Stokes wouldn’t have hoped would happen, the second one was something, he along with thousands of others, probably wanted to see.
Ben Stokes became the man of the match after he kept England in the Ashes, and would be a man of greater significance if England go on to win the Ashes. But for now, he was the hero that England badly needed.