Ben Stokes, who donned the No.3 role for England in the 1st ODI, revealed that he sought the advice of incumbent Joe Root, who, he revealed, told him to play naturally, without trying to curb his instincts. Root’s absence was felt in the 1st ODI as England botched an easy chase to slump to defeat.
Joe Root being rested meant that England went into the first ODI without an anchor, and the glaring imbalance in the set-up showed as the Three Lions plummeted to a scarcely believable 66-run defeat, despite having been in firm control at one stage. In Root’s absence, the responsibility of anchoring the innings fell on Stokes, but the southpaw failed to perform the role with the same perfunctory ease as the former as he managed an unremarkable 11-ball 1 to not only kill the momentum generated by the openers but open the door for India to run through the middle-order.
With Eoin Morgan, too, absent for the second ODI, more responsibility will fall on Stokes come the second game, but the 29-year-old is unbothered by his failure in the first encounter. Addressing the media ahead of the second ODI, Stokes revealed that he is clear as to how to approach his innings if he’s placed at No.3, and added that he, in fact, sought the advice of Root, who he revealed asked him to just play naturally.
"There would be talk, whoever filled the place at No. 3 with Rooty not being here. People keep talking and I'll just go out and try to do what I've been asked to do. That's where my focus is, and the T20s have been and gone so I won't worry about that. But I did actually message Rooty and asked him about his mind-set at 3, and he was pretty clear to me in saying just play the way you play,” Stokes said on Thursday, reported ESPN Cricinfo.
"Just because he plays a certain way doesn't mean I have to do it like that. We kept it pretty simple, but it's just a slightly different role batting at 3 to my usual position in this team. I'm just potentially facing 100 balls compared to 60 or 70 like I normally do. I haven't got to change too much, just face a slightly different situation when I start my innings."
More than the fact that England plummeted to a defeat, it was the manner in which they capitulated that saw the visitors come under fire. Sitting mighty at 135/0 after 14.1 overs, chasing 318, the Three Lions lost their last 10 wickets for just 116 runs, thanks to their ‘gung-ho’ approach going gloriously wrong. England’s smartness, and consequently their approach and mindset, has since come under question, but Stokes said that there have been cries about the same only because England eventually lost the game.
"You look at that T20 batting line-up and everyone deserves to be where they deserve to play. We have been formidable in the white-ball format for a number of years and why would we change that? It's a talking point and it always seems to pop up, but just because we lost the T20 series doesn't mean we need to start changing things around.
"When we win, nobody says too much but when we lose, everyone starts to pipe up and it starts to get like the gulag [in Call of Duty: Warzone]. I am happy where everything is in our white-ball team because that's our best formula to win."
Stokes did not quite contribute with the bat in the first ODI, but he was England’s best bowler in the game, finishing with figures of 3/43 off 8 overs, including taking the prized scalp of Rohit Sharma. The 29-year-old admitted that the heat and the workload took a toll on his body, but insisted that he was chuffed to be able to do a job for the side with the ball in hand.
"It was actually interesting coming back to bowl another spell. It took about an over to get the body going again. It was a very, very heavy outfield and the body was getting used to standing up for four hours or something like that in 50-over cricket.
"It was nice to get the ball in the hand and get a few good spells in. But everything just felt a little bit lethargic to start, but I was happy to be able to get some overs under the belt and put a decent shift in."
England will need to win the second ODI to stay alive in the series, but at stake is also valuable ODI Super League points for the Three Lions, who are currently placed at 4th, below both Afghanistan and Bangladesh. Stokes insisted that a few results will not change the fact that England are the best ODI side in the world, and asserted that he and his boys will be keen on levelling the series, come Friday.
"We look at it from a series point of view, that we'd be bitterly disappointed to lose it. As we would any other. We deserve to be No. 1 because of our results and it's obviously a fantastic thing to have next to your name as a team, but it's not our driving force.
"Our driving force is the way we go about it and our attitude towards playing the game," he added. "We know we're a much better team than that, but one thing we've been very good at is putting previous games to bed quickly, whether that be a successful game or a poor game. All our concentration now is on tomorrow."