Ben Stokes eyes bowling return ahead of Ranchi Test

In a surprising twist to the ongoing Test series against India, England’s star all-rounder, Ben Stokes, might don his bowling shoes sooner than expected.

Stokes, who underwent knee surgery in November, had initially ruled out bowling in the series but is now considering a return to his dual role as an all-rounder after England’s recent defeat.

“I’m not saying yes, I’m not saying no. Me being me, I’m always very optimistic about most things. That will be a more detailed chat with the medical team about what workload I have done to pass me off as not being a massive risk. I managed to bowl at 100% in one of the warm-up days here which made me feel pretty good. I felt like I could have bowled in the game but that would have been stupid,” Stokes said as quoted by ESPNcricinfo.

Brendon McCullum, England’s head coach also expressed optimism about Stokes’ potential return to bowling, stating.

“Well, it’s good that he’s actually getting into a state where he thinks he might bow. But Ben is clever; he’s really clever as well. He won’t bowl unless he thinks he’s legitimately able to bowl. The problem would be if he starts getting into a spell and then he can’t get out of the spell. So we’ll see what unfolds. If he does get that bit between his teeth, then let’s see where the danger lies there and try and pull him away from it. But it’s a good sign,” McCullum said.

If Stokes does return to bowling, it could significantly enhance England’s team balance. The team faced challenges in the first two Tests Test, relying heavily on spinners with only one seamer. Stokes’ return as an all-rounder could provide the team with more options, especially with his ability to reverse swing and bowl bouncers.

We’ve got two really good options on the sideline: McCullum

The upcoming Test in Ranchi poses a selection dilemma for England, with fast bowlers James Anderson and Mark Wood likely fatigued after the third Test. Stokes’ potential return to bowling might influence the selection, allowing England to have two seamers and four spin options. Ollie Robinson is expected to come in, providing additional depth to the squad.

McCullum expressed confidence in the team’s choices, highlighting the strong options on the sideline with Ollie Robinson and Gus Atkinson. He emphasized the team’s quality squad, stating they need to assess the pitch conditions upon arrival and evaluate the players’ fitness before deciding on the final playing XI.

“We’ve got two really good options on the sideline as well with Ollie Robinson and Gus Atkinson. So we’ve got a really good squad to pick from. We just need to work out when we get there what conditions we’re going to be confronted with and see the health of the army, and then make a decision on what we go with.”

“Obviously we haven’t seen the conditions in Ranchi yet. I think it might spin. I guess it should spin but we’ll see when we get there. But, look, we’re really comfortable with what we’ve got and we’re certainly not going to add to the squad. We’ve got a group of players here who have played some outstanding cricket so far over the last three Test matches and whatever XI we decide to go with we will fully back. Hopefully we’ll be in a different situation to what we’re in now,” McCullum added.