His peers, seniors and even critics can’t help being in awe of the brilliance that defines Ben Stokes’s career but the World Cup-winning English cricketer prefers being mostly unhappy with his performances to ensure that improvement never stops.
In the form of his life for the past three-four years, the 29-year-old already has 7000 plus runs and more than 270 wickets across formats and finds his name mentioned alongside the likes of Ian Botham and Andrew Flintoff.
Speaking to PTI in an interview, Stokes revealed how he transformed into a world beater in the past couple of years.
“Experience. The more you play, the more you learn about yourself. You are able to understand different things and different situations. Constantly, I have never been happy with where I am as a player," Stokes said, giving a insight into his mind.
“I am always trying to evolve. I am still trying to work on my strengths and that"s how I score runs and take wickets. You don’t forget that. But also doing away with my weaknesses which makes me more consistent as a player," said the man from Durham, who is feared by teams for his game-changing abilities.
Whether it’s being the a central figure in a tense World Cup final or an epic Ashes hundred at the Leed’s, Stokes admits that the occasion does play on the mind of every player even if he tries to shut the outside noise.
Asked, how he keeps calm for big games, Stokes replied: “System of the game."
“It begins around with people picking the game up (hype). That"s not to say we don"t get nervous or feel anxious about the occasion. It’s normal.
“It’s all about embracing the situation and dealing with it in the right way without being overcome by it. At the end of the day, it’s a game of cricket whether it"s an Ashes Test or World Cup final," the answer seemed simpler than actual execution.
Talking about big games and Stokes speaks about how the Indian Premier League, over the years, has prepared players to understand what sense of occasion means.
“IPL is an amazing learning curve and you get to play alongside and against some of the best players in the world. You get to pick their brains," said the player, who is competing for Rajasthan Royals this season.
“…you get to play in front of sold-out houses and get exposed to that kind of an atmosphere. Just getting used to every ball in IPL is an occasion and the energy that they bring is a big thing," the all-rounder said.
“Once you get used to it, you get comfortable with a high pressure environment."
The question that didn’t remotely amuse him was about the fact that before the start of the game against Mumbai Indians, he hadn’t hit a six for more than 100 deliveries.
“It’s a pretty pointless stat to be written about," he said having anchored a chase for Royals in the last game against MI with a splendid hundred.
For someone blessed with equal finesse in both aspects of the game, Stokes believes that bowling to a technically gifted player like England captain Joe Root and batting against the likes of James Anderson and Stuart Broad has helped him “massively".
“It helps massively to improve as an all-rounder when you are bowling against someone like Rooty (Joe Root) or batting against two greatest England fast bowlers (Broad and Anderson) is test in itself.
“They are going to test you in every aspect of the game and when you have a bat or ball in your hand, it’s an amazing challenge you have for 20 minutes or half an hour at the nets."
Stokes feels happy when he is able to battle it out against England’s best in the nets, which can be huge for confidence at the international stage.
“You might not get Rooty out but you will know that you have bowled well. Similarly against Jimmy and Broad, if you don’t get out even if you haven"t scored off them, you come out with a sense of accomplishment that two greats of the game hadn’t been able to get you out.
“Sometimes, you want to practice playing the short ball and you might get out five or six times in the nets. But having said that, getting that kind of practice in the nets against those guys is awesome."