In the past few weeks, Joe Root and James Anderson have accepted that Ben Stokes is the ‘best all-rounder’ they have played with.
Stokes has been on a roll since January 2016 — slamming eight Test tons and scalping 110 wickets.
After a dream season last year which includes the World Cup victory followed by the heroics in the Ashes — the 29-year-old is back in business again, scalping nine wickets in the just concluded Test series against the West Indies.
Australia’s batting ace and Rajasthan Royals captain Steve Smith admits that Stokes has grown from strength to strength over the years.
Before joining Royals in 2018, Stokes played under Smith’s captaincy at the now-defunct Rising Pune Supergiant. And having seen Stokes from close quarters, Smith agrees that ‘it is good to have such a quality player in the line-up.’
“We have seen Stokes just grow from strength to strength in the last couple of years. He has obviously had an incredible World Cup last year and also recently [playing the Test series] he bowled beautifully and took wickets,” Smith said, making it clear that he wouldn’t like to see Stokes so aggressive when Australia tours England next month. “He can keep that for the IPL…” Smith joked.
Interacting with a select group of media during a special screening of Inside Story: A Season with Rajasthan Royals — a three-part documentary on the team produced by Red Bull Media House — Smith admitted that Stokes is one such player who is always looking forward to newer challenges. “He is playing incredible cricket. He wants to be involved all the time whether it is with the bat, the ball or on the field. He gets himself in the hot spots and wants the ball to come to him. Those are the players you want in your team; they are the ones who want to step up in the pressure moments when things get tough,” he said.
Royals’ youngster, Riyan Parag, who has shared the dressing room with Stokes last year, is in awe of his dedication. Reminiscing the times from last season, the Assam all-rounder referred to Stokes as one of the ‘most hardworking cricketers.’
“On off days, we would wake up at 12pm and go to the team room. He would be in his sports attires, coming there for a drink (refreshments) after a gruelling gym session. He deserves all of that for all the hard work he’s putting in,” the young gun said.
Smith hopes the upcoming IPL turns out to be a “big season for him and the boys…”