Write us off at your own peril – Ben Stokes bullish about England prospects

By Sports Desk March 09, 2024

Ben Stokes declared “write this team off, write me off at your own peril” after his England side ended their tour of India with an abject defeat inside three days in Dharamsala.

James Anderson becoming the third bowler and first non-spinner to reach 700 Test wickets on Saturday was relegated to secondary status by England’s meek batting display as they lost by an innings and 64 runs.

A fourth successive defeat and seventh in 12 Tests was confirmed within just eight sessions of play, with England on a downward slide after winning 10 of their first 11 under Stokes and Brendon McCullum.

The duo’s methods have come under scrutiny during a 4-1 series defeat and Stokes has underperformed, averaging 19.9 with the bat, but the England captain was bullish about his team’s future prospects.

“Not just myself but the team are big enough to say we’ve been completely outplayed in the last four games,” Stokes said. “I’m always man enough to say we got beaten by the better team.

“Failure is a great teacher to sports teams. You either let failure and disappointment eat you up and shoot you down or you learn from failure and you make sure you don’t lose the enthusiasm of what we do.

“This series shouldn’t affect anything we’ve managed to achieve before this tour. It’s the first time, particularly these last four games, that this team has been dominated pretty much the whole time.

“We will use this as inspiration to become a better team and to become better players. I am obviously disappointed with my performance, but write this team off, write me off at your own peril.”

While Joe Root made 84 before he was last man out, he lacked a useful foil as England were skittled for 195, needing 259 to make India bat again, as Ravichandran Ashwin banked five for 77 on his 100th Test.

England have reached 400 just once in this series – in their famous triumph in Hyderabad in the opener – and what has been billed as an attack-minded mantra under this leadership has been questioned.

“The media name ‘Bazball’ – everyone says, ‘what is it?’ – in my opinion it’s wanting to be a better player,” Stokes said.

“In the face of defeat and failure, ‘Bazball’ will hopefully inspire people to become better players and become even better than what we are.

“I think we’ve done a lot of things right. One thing India have done is stay true to what makes them successful. We have done that but not been able to execute how we’d like to.

“Whenever we managed to wrestle back any type of momentum with the ball or bat, India were always able to then put it back on to us. That was where the Tests after the first one were won and lost.”

Stokes, who played his 100th Test in Rajkot, refused to make any excuses at the end of an anticlimactic few months for England in all formats. As well as this defeat, they were knocked out of the Cricket World Cup at the group stage and lost both ODI and T20 series in the West Indies.

“If we we weren’t disappointed, if we weren’t frustrated at how the series has ended up, I don’t really know what other emotions you could have,” Stokes said.

“Use it as fuel. I always feel like I can’t work any harder, but I’ll come away from this tour and go home and work even harder than what I have done out here for the summer coming up.”

Anderson, with his father in the crowd, finally joined Muttiah Muralitharan and Shane Warne in the 700 club. The 41-year-old spent several months in the 690s but the moment came when Kuldeep Yadav hung out his bat and edged through to wicketkeeper Ben Foakes.

“He doesn’t play the game for the milestones, he plays for his team-mates and England,” Stokes added. “He’s just an unbelievable ambassador for the game and in particular fast bowling.

“If someone came up to me and said who should I emulate if I want to be a good fast bowler, the first name I’d say is Jimmy Anderson.”

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