Ben Stokes rules himself out of T20 World Cup title defence

England star wants to focus on becoming an all-rounder once again ahead of busy home season

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Ben Stokes has ruled himself out of England's T20 World Cup title defence in the Caribbean and US, the England and Wales Cricket Board announced on Tuesday.

Stokes, 32, said he has decided to miss the showpiece tournament in order to become a proper all-rounder again. Stokes had reduced his bowling load drastically recently after long-term fitness issues.

“I’m working hard and focusing on building my bowling fitness back up to fulfil a full role as an all-rounder in all formats of cricket," Stokes said in a statement.

“Opting out of the IPL and the World Cup will hopefully be a sacrifice that allows me to be the all-rounder I want to be for the foreseeable future."

Stokes returned to bowling briefly last month during a Test tour of India, where England lost the five-match series 4-1. According to reports, there are no fitness issues in his left knee following surgery in November.

Stokes is one of the finest all-format all-rounders of the modern game and played a crucial role in winning the 2019 ODI World Cup and the 2022 T20 World Cup successes.

He batted England across the line in the 2022 final against Pakistan in Melbourne with an unbeaten 52. But the pain in his left knee reduced his bowling, and he has played only two T20s since, in the Indian Premier League last year.

He delayed knee surgery to come out of ODI retirement and help England in the World Cup last October in India. There England fell in the group stage, after which he had the operation in November.

After turning his attention to red-ball cricket as Test captain, Stokes now hopes to play a full role with both bat and ball during six Tests – three against the West Indies and three against Sri Lanka – in the upcoming home season.

The first Test against the West Indies at Lord's starts on July 10, less than two weeks after the T20 World Cup final in Barbados.

That congested schedule has prompted Stokes to follow up his withdrawal from the IPL tournament by also pulling out of the T20 World Cup in a major blow for England white-ball captain Jos Buttler and coach Matthew Mott.

Stokes said he wants to focus on delivering as an all-rounder once again.

“The recent Test tour of India highlighted how far behind I was from a bowling point of view after my knee surgery and nine months without bowling. I’m looking forward to playing for Durham in the County Championship before the start of our Test summer," Stokes added in the statement.

“I wish Jos, Motty and all the team the best of luck in defending our title.”

Updated: April 02, 2024, 10:48 AM