Stokes not risking fitness for Ashes by playing in IPL, says McCullum

By Sports Desk March 01, 2023

Ben Stokes is not risking fitness for this year's Ashes series by playing in the Indian Premier League, insists England head coach Brendon McCullum.

England's Test captain has signed for Chennai Super Kings with the IPL season starting on March 31, ahead of the Ashes getting underway on June 16 in Birmingham.

Stokes struggled with his left knee in England's Test defeat to New Zealand in Wellington, where he could only bowl two overs while batting for 33 runs on the final day.

But McCullum has no concerns.

"I don't think he's jeopardising the Ashes. The skipper has a strong mind, and he knows how to get right for the big moments," he told reporters.

"In fact I look forward to watching him play for Chennai, and see him play cricket without the captaincy and having to worry about everyone else.

"We know when he comes back to us, he'll have that bit between his teeth. I also believe the Ashes is the script the skipper is waiting to write."

Stokes has delivered in huge moments for England, from starring in their 2019 World Cup victory to stunning Australia in a famous Ashes Test at Headingley when the series was last played on English soil four years ago.

He also scored an unbeaten 52 to propel England to victory at the T20 World Cup last year and has become the quickest Test captain to reach 10 wins.

At Chennai, he will play under head coach Stephen Fleming, who was once New Zealand team-mates with McCullum.

"I've got a tee-time with him, so I'll be making sure he looks after the skipper," said McCullum of Fleming.

"Chennai have a very good set-up, and they have an outstanding leader in Flem. He sees the big picture in everything, so I've no concerns."

Australia won the last Ashes 4-0 but after developing a distinct style of play since McCullum's appointment, England look primed to take the fight to the tourists. 

"This team has grown over the last eight or nine months," McCullum added. "I think the players have become more at ease with how we're playing, and it's become more authentic.

"Our style certainly does give us the best chance of being able to topple a good Australian side.

"We know it won't be easy but with eight or nine months development of that style under our belts, we should be hard to beat. Bring it on!"

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