He’s not Superman – Mark Wood insists England cannot put pressure on Ben Stokes

By Sports Desk October 06, 2023

Mark Wood has warned England not to rely on their injured “Messiah” Ben Stokes to ride to the rescue after a punishing start to their World Cup defence.

The 2019 champions were roundly thrashed by New Zealand in the tournament opener in Ahmedabad, going down by nine wickets as Devon Conway and Rachin Ravindra shared an unbroken stand of 273.

Stokes, the hero of the Lord’s final four years ago and newly back in the ODI fold after reversing his retirement, missed out with a left hip problem and cut a frustrated figure as he watched on from the dugout.

Details of the Test captain’s fitness are sparse but he has struggled with a longstanding left knee problem in recent years and has already been ruled out as a bowling option in the World Cup to ease the load on his body.

England would love to welcome him back for Tuesday’s clash against Bangladesh in the Himalayan city of Dharamasala, but there is no guarantee he will be cleared for action.

Whether or not he makes it, Wood wants the rest of the squad to take their own responsibility for turning things around.

“It’s not all just about ‘the Messiah’ Stokesy coming back and him doing everything. I don’t want to put too much pressure on him,” said his Durham team-mate.

“He’s not Superman. He’s been through tough situations. Other people have to stand up as well. He’s obviously one of our best players, if not our best player, but all the lads have to stand up as well.”

Wood offered an uncertain update on Stokes’ current status, but England have already made it clear they will not gamble so early in their six-week stay.

“I don’t know (how he is), but he’s got strapping round his leg, which is helping,” said Wood.

“He’ll have to get in the nets and see if the strapping does its job and allows him to move how he wants. It’s not just about batting, it’s in the field too.

“Obviously we want Stokesy back – he’s a huge player. We’ll just have to assess with the medical team. It’s not up to me.”

Former captain Eoin Morgan, the man who masterminded England’s white-ball revolution and lifted the World Cup at Lord’s four years ago, emphasised the influential role Stokes still has to play – on and off the field.

“Ben Stokes’ return will be key. The difference he makes is invaluable and there is no measure on the impact he has in a changing room,” Morgan said.

“He believes he can achieve anything from any sort of circumstances and has backed that up in match-winning performances. He breeds confidence and belief. After a defeat like that, he will no doubt be speaking in that changing room.

“His words hold a lot of weight because they are backed up by performance. He will have had a great view of the whole game and hopefully he’ll be back on the field as soon as possible.”

Wood, meanwhile, has plenty to consider after he was put to the sword by Conway and Ravindra. Playing his first ODI since March he sent down five wicketless overs for 55 and was thrashed for seven fours and two pulled sixes.

He missed the recent home series against New Zealand due to a sore heel but he insisted the only pain he felt after Thursday’s game was psychological.

“I’m a bit battered mentally, from watching the ball going over my head a lot of times, but physically I feel OK,” he said.

“It’s fine to let it hurt but then we’ll refocus on the next game. We’ll move on pretty quickly. We want to keep this trophy, to prove people wrong. There’ll be question marks now but, as a group, we believe in each other.”

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