But Stokes is different; not that he’s necessarily better. There’s something intangible about him that inspires those around him. He can influence those around him, make them shine in his own light. Like Jack Leach in that epic last-wicket partnership at Headley; he can create a colossus out of scum, like Johnny Bairstow; he can make the people he needs retire, like Moin Ali reciprocated his call to take part in the Ashes; Joe Root took his batsman skills several notches higher. Of all the batsmen, it was Root who turned the batting around in the first Test under pressure, making backward lunges and charging.
Stokes can conquer fate, too; he can bend it to unusual tricks, like the ricocheted six in the 2019 World Cup final; he can reverse fate. Sometimes Stokes creates moments; sometimes moments create Stokes. That’s what led to the thrilling final test at Lord’s, when in the company of Stuart Broad, Stokes did what only he can do, keeping Australia at bay, on his way to another stellar strikeout in the fourth inning that could be career-defining.
No one is more emblematic of Buzball’s systematic nonchalance than Stokes. At the heart of McCallum, Buzboll and Stokes is the high school excitement of the game. Playing for the simple joy it brings them, unclouded and untainted by greed and money. Sure, they play to win (as Stokes says, every loss hurts), but winning seems almost secondary to pure joy. deluded into thinking they can hunt down any target or win a hike from any unfavorable situation. Stokes ruined the atmosphere of nervous seriousness in the locker rooms.
He is perhaps the most sober of the England captains in recent memory. Joe Root’s silence was often a sign of nervousness; Andrew Strauss always walked around with a battered face; Kevin Pietersen wore false bravado, Nasser Hussein wore contrived aggressiveness, Michael Vaughan wore detachment.
That doesn’t mean he’s blameless. There often seems to be a blind subconscious urge to reject anything that is orthodox. They ignored the statistic that Usman Khawaja is weaker against wicket attacks and continued to use him despite his lack of results. Like the sub-continental type pitch, with two catching cover and catching mid-wicket, it put Usman Khawaja in front before theSteeg hundreds. Khawaja deflected the threat, defending himself with soft hands. During his stance with Alex, Cary Stokes overpowered the latter’s attack. Before that, he provided many scoring opportunities for Travis Head. There was almost no cover on the ropes, and he stalked Moen Ali for too long. His seven overs after halftime allowed 45 balls, 38 of which came on boundaries. This is a passage where the usual trick of drying up and building up would have frustrated Australian batters. Similarly, he went overboard with Joe Root in chasing the last inning when he should have pitched a new ball. He ended up losing a few points. He chose not to use the ver scaled to helm all-rounders’ peak that his potential deserved.
But he knows how to create chances. And he did. There’s always a brush of magic at his fingertips, a stray ray of light, a touch of cosmic energy. And here he presents another moment. In just six balls.
The first two balls were stump length. Perhaps a loosener or two, perhaps a pair of decoy balls. Khawaja might have tried something outrageous, an air flick or a push. But he didn’t. So he went back to balls of good length, with a bounce off the stump or a little further. The Australian left that kind of ball throughout the entire inning. Unlike Anderson or Broad, he didn’t have to fear the ball bouncing back angrily, hitting his finger pads or stumps. But Stokes gave him more time to react. Sometimes too much time is a dangerous thing in cricket. Too much thought can cloud clarity. So Stokes introduced a slow kick, using a curious three-finger grip — thumb, index finger, middle finger and ring finger grouped together.
When the ball is released, the index and middle fingers work the sides of the ball so that the thumb goes under the ball, creating rotation of the ball. The technique is the same, except the thumb is closer to the index finger than usual.
The ball lands in almost the same territory as the previous three. Only it was slower and lower. The ball is passing rather than hitting the surface. Khawaja shaped to touch the ball in the direction of the appointed captain for the England trials. He interacts emotionally with both the team and the fans, making them relive his own experience.
His tactics are polarizing to the cricketing world, especially when they lose, but no one would agree that his team is not spectacular. If.but for the tactical enterprise of Stokes and Co., under a more conventional captain, the game would have turned into a dull, dull draw that viewers would have forgotten about before the match was over. But Stokes’ England fills them with memories and moments, something defining and timeless, a spectacle greater than victory or defeat. And remember how badly England played Test cricket before Stokes took charge of the team.
His views are nuanced to see the big picture. He wrote in the Players’ Tribune: What’s at stake, and it’s more than just myself and my own ambitions on the field. It’s about inspiring the next generation of players. The landscape is changing. Cricket as a sport is evolving at a tremendous pace. Faster than ever before. Formats like T20, Hundred and ODI are bringing players money and opportunities that weren’t there even 15 years ago. But the best way to keep Test cricket alive and on top of the sport is to work even harder to show players what excites and inspires them.
He doesn’t step into the cricket intellectual’s path, but speaks with all the romanticism with which he treats Test cricket, but through the lens of a rebel. In fact, that’s his brand of cricket as well: at its core, it’s romantic, but with a dash of rebelliousness.