EXCLUSIVE: England will make plea to Ben Stokes to ‘unretire’, with one-day coach Matthew Mott happy to take a World Cup risk on him and Jofra Archer
- England want Ben Stokes to ‘unretire’ from one-day cricket to defend World Cup
- Matthew Mott is also keen to gamble on Jofra Archer’s fitness for 50-over event
- England’s selectors pick their provisional 18-man squad for India on Tuesday
England are prepared to use Ben Stokes as a specialist batsman and gamble on fast bowler Jofra Archer’s fitness in defence of their 50-over World Cup title this autumn.
England’s selectors will pick their provisional 18-strong squad for the tournament in India this Tuesday and national white-ball coach Matthew Mott told Mail Sport that two elements ahead of the meeting – a call from Jos Buttler to his fellow England captain Stokes and an updated medical report on another hero of 2019 in Archer – would be crucial.
Stokes, 32, battled his long-term left knee injury throughout the recent Ashes but highlighted that his match-altering ability with the bat remained undiminished with a brilliant 155, albeit in a losing cause at Lord’s, and 80 that kept victory hopes alive in Leeds. Following the thrilling drawn series against Australia, he said ‘serious in-depth conversations’ were required about how to be physically ready to bowl in India next January – although rest from the activity that triggers the pain rather than surgery is the recommended course of treating patellar tendonitis.
Archer has not featured during the English summer, having been diagnosed with another stress fracture of the elbow after appearing sporadically and with limited success at the Indian Premier League in the spring, but has returned bowling in the nets alongside his Sussex team-mates this week.
On Stokes, who retired from one-day internationals 13 months ago, Mott said: ‘Jos will probably lead the way on that communication, but Ben’s pretty straight with all of us. We will see if he’s keen.
England want Ben Stokes as a specialist batsman for the defence of the 50-over World Cup
White-ball coach Matthew Mott is waiting on two elements ahead of the selection meeting
‘There has not been a clear direction on what he’s going to do yet, but we are still hopeful. I’ve always said his bowling would be a bonus, but just look at what he brings with the bat, even in the field.
‘Watching him throughout the whole Ashes series, he had such a great presence. He’s done it for years when it comes to performing in one-day cricket and so he’s an invaluable commodity.’
Stokes emphasised that assessment in his most recent limited-overs international outing against Pakistan last November when despite a lack of fluency to his innings, he guided England to a modest T20 target and double world champion status in Melbourne; four years ago, it was his ability under pressure that took England to the finish line at Lord’s, before Archer bowled the Super Over that sealed victory over New Zealand by the barest of margins. And although he balances the side as an all-rounder, he has only taken four wickets during this entire four-year World Cup cycle.
Of Archer, Mott revealed: ‘There is a high chance that we will take risk on a proven performer that has done it on the world stage.
‘We are planning for him to be available. Obviously, a lot of things have to go his way and it will be a tight timeline but with players like that you are going to give them every opportunity to prove their fitness, and so we will keep an open mind.’
England’s willingness to back Archer comes after he claimed career best one-day international figures in South Africa earlier this year, two games into a return from 18 months on the sidelines, and then broke the 90-mile-per-hour barrier at will on the tour of Bangladesh in conditions similar to those that will be experienced in India.
‘It would be a big ask for him to play every game, so we would have to target specific ones, but we are big on ball speed for India, we feel like that’s a really important asset for us to have out there and it will be good to see Mark Wood, who had such an impact in the Ashes, do the same with the white ball.
‘The thing about pace like that is it’s not just the immediate impact of unsettling or making opponents feel uncomfortable, it’s the whole aura that it creates around the team.
‘Look at Wood’s impact at the back end of the Ashes. Everyone else on that field fed off his energy and what he brought.’
As England have not played overs cricket for five months, Mott has had plenty of plotting time ahead of this World Cup and believes a minimum of two high-end pace options will be required to counter the subcontinental tendency to play the waiting game in one-day internationals.
‘If you can upset top orders and deny the big hundred-makers, that goes a really long way to winning games over there. If you look at the way India play, they set their stall out to make sure people are ‘in’ at the 40-over mark and therefore able to score 100-plus during the last 10 – and that is very hard to stop,’ he said.
Under ICC regulations squads must be cut by three to a final 15 prior to September 28, which would allow England to include Stokes and Archer pending further specialist advice on their knee and elbow issues.
The World Cup names are expected to be revealed on Thursday along with one-day and T20 squads to face New Zealand and Ireland in limited-overs series from August 30-September 26, plus a tour party to take on West Indies in eight white-ball fixtures in December.
The Caribbean jaunt is reminiscent of last winter’s bilateral itinerary for which England struggled to persuade players to commit in the face of greater riches being offered on the Twenty20 circuit. They even allowed Joe Root, one of their centrally-contracted cricketers, to miss the tour of South Africa to to add to his franchise experience.
Such was the lack of uptake for March’s trip to Bangladesh, in fact, that they opted not to replace injured batters Tom Abell and Will Jacks, parachuting Sam Curran into a makeshift no 5 role instead. So, is Mott worried about a repeat?
‘I wouldn’t say worried is the word, just realistic that it can happen. Jos and I have said from day dot that we have make sure our changing room is a fun place to be,’ he countered.
England are willing to bring back Jofra Archer after his career-best ODI figures in South Africa
‘Financially, it’s a tough decision for players. They’ve only got a short shelf life and there will be tours, I reckon, where we are not going to get our best picks, but if we look after them and provide an environment they love playing in, we will win the war, getting them when we need them the most.
‘Time will also tell on other things. Maybe there will be a moment in this World Cup where we need Sam to win a game for us with the bat and we will look back on that (Bangladesh decision).’
One thing Mott is certain about, however is: ‘It’s going to be incredibly hard to get picked for this World Cup, if you look at all the players that are becoming available.’
And a desire to accommodate 2019 stars Stokes and Archer makes the competition all the fiercer.
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