The venue was Eden Gardens, Kolkata. The event was the ICC World T20 2016 final between England and the West Indies. It was the final over and West Indies needed 19 runs for victory. All-rounder Ben Stokes had the ball in hand. He had quite a number of runs in the bank and with his ability to bowl slower ones and yorker, it looked likely that he would defend them. But at the crease was Carlos Braithwaite, the strapping and hard-hitting all-rounder. And he smashed four consecutive sixes off Stokes to seal the game and win the Cup for West Indies.
After the final six, Stokes sat on his haunches; unable to believe what had just happened. It was a crushing blow to the morale of the all-rounder and it seemed that his world had come crumbling down.
People wondered if Stokes would ever be able to recover from the events of that final. The all-rounder, though, has quietly gone about his job and focused on winning matches for his team. His next big assignment for England was the 2019 World Cup. England’s hopes were dependent a lot on the burly all-rounder if they had to win at home.
And Stokes delivered. In the most spectacular fashion.
In the 11 matches he played in World Cup 2019, Ben Stokes smashed 465 runs in 10 innings at a brilliant average of 66.42 along with 5 fifties. He was England’s most consistent player, even though he didn’t score the most number of runs – he was the third highest run-getter after the openers. However, Stokes came lower down the order at No.5 or 6 usually and almost always held one end together with his resolute batting. Usually known for his big-hitting, Stokes showed immense maturity and character in his batting in the tournament and never gave his wicket away to reckless shots.
In the final against New Zealand, England were in trouble at 83-4 while chasing 242 on a slow wicket. But Ben Stokes stood tall and didn’t let the game slip away from England. His unbeaten 84 off 98 balls with 5 fours and 2 sixes was the difference in the end. Even after the game had ended in a tie, Stokes went about in the same flow in the Super Over and went on to smash seven crucial runs in them that ultimately proved decisive in crowing England the world champions for the first time.
It was an incredible effort and will be remembered for years. Despite the tough conditions, great bowling and immense pressure Stokes did not give in. He fought it out and ensured that he was there till the very end for his team. In fact, throughout the tournament, Stokes was often the last man standing for England, even in lost causes – his performances in the matches against Sri Lanka and Australia in the league stage are the perfect cases in point.
Stokes was rightly named the Player of the Final for his stupendous effort. And with this, he has now finally exorcised the ghost of the 2016 World T20 final. That one match had almost destroyed his confidence forever. But it takes incredible character to come out of that and go on to complete a redemption arc so magnificent and stunning.
Ben Stokes would have undoubtedly come out of this experience a much mature person and one can expect him to keep getting better in the years to come.