Stoked to return to Lions den
Durham youngster Ben Stokes is delighted to be back in the international reckoning following his England Lions call to face West Indies next week.
The 20-year-old, who made his one-day and Twenty20 international debuts last summer, returns to the England fold having started this season steadily with Durham and is set be part of a strong Lions side to face the tourists in a four-day game at Northampton from Thursday week.
The Christchurch-born all-rounder, who spent the winter recovering from surgery on his right index finger in the USA, is determined to add to his a taste of senior international cricket in the NatWest Series last summer.
“It’s fantastic to be involved again with the Lions, especially after such a frustrating winter,” he said.
“It’s just nice to know that I’m still in the eyes of the selectors and hopefully I can put in a good performance when we get on the pitch.”
Stokes, who was this month named in the England Performance Squad for the first time, is keen to keep himself in the mix for international recognition without letting the status of being one of the country’s brightest prospects weigh him down.
“It would be nice to get back to international cricket, but I haven’t set any time frames,” he added.
“If I can do as well as I can then I’ve got nothing to regret and if it does happen then hopefully I can take it with both hands.”
However, given his experiences last season when an early burst of form saw him score four first-class hundreds, Stokes is also aware that his best route back into the senior England set-up is through his performances for a Durham side that itself has an intense competition for places.
“It would be fantastic to get back in the England team, but at the moment I’m with Durham and that’s what my main focus is on,” he said.
“I don’t know whether it’s the person I am or if it’s like this this with every cricketer, but whichever team you are in the dressing room for then you are always trying to do well as an individual and as a team.
“There is a lot of competition for all types of places at Durham, but at the moment I don’t want to focus on anyone else; it’s my game and I don’t want to distract from my performance on the pitch.“
Stokes is being hampered by a back injury that would have prevented him from bowling against Surrey in the LV= County Championship last week, had there been any play.
He picked up the problem versus Middlesex in Durham’s previous game and is soon to have a scan on the problem.
“I hope that will tell us more,” he added. “If it stops me from bowling that is going to be a setback.
“I had a couple of stress reactions in my back when I was younger. But this doesn’t feel similar, so I hope it’s not that bad.”
Stokes is set to line up against West Indies alongside James Taylor, who will captain the side and is another young prospect watched keenly on the county circuit.
The Durham player knows Taylor well, having both been part of the 2010-11 England Performance Programme, and credits the Nottinghamshire batsman with helping his game in more ways than one.
“It was a great winter I had away with him; it definitely opened my eyes to realise what you have to do on and off the pitch to be a top-class cricketer. But it is definitely good to be back in the mix for England,” Stokes said.