England captain Ben Stokes to manage fitness during IPL ahead of Ashes
Ben Stokes had a cortisone injection in his troublesome left knee before departing for the Indian Premier League and is set to start the tournament as a specialist batter as he manages his fitness ahead of the Ashes.
The England Test captain has already started work with Chennai Super Kings, who signed him for a bumper GBP 1.6million in December, and all eyes are on the 31-year-old’s fitness after he struggled through the recent tour of New Zealand.
The PA news agency understands Stokes underwent a scan on his return from that trip and, while nothing concerning came back in the results, it was decided an injection would be given to help him manage ongoing discomfort in the joint.
After managing just two overs in the thrilling one-run defeat in Wellington, Stokes admitted: “I’m not going to lie, it’s incredibly frustrating knowing something has been holding me back from performing as I’d like to.”
Head coach Brendon McCullum made it clear his skipper’s readiness to lead the charge against Australia this summer would not be jeopardised by his time in India, and the England and Wales Cricket Board’s medical staff have been working closely with Chennai over his conditioning and workload.
The franchise’s batting coach Mike Hussey, who worked with Stokes as part of England’s backroom team during their T20 World Cup victory in November, stressed that he was being handled with care.
“The physios from Chennai and the ECB are working pretty closely together. This franchise is very professional and works very closely with all the national boards,” Hussey told the PA news agency and ESPNcricinfo.
“He’s ready to go as a batsman from the start, the bowling might be wait and see. I know he had his first very light bowl this week since he had his injections in his knee. My understanding is he won’t be bowling much at all in the first few games of the tournament, or it might be a few weeks, I’m not 100 per cent sure. But hopefully we’ll get him bowling at some stage in the tournament.”
Hussey, who won 79 Test caps for Australia, joked about his partisan interests in this summer’s hotly-anticipated series but left no doubt that he wants to play his part in delivering a fully fit Stokes back to England.
“From an Australian perspective I’m going to hope he bowls 20 or 30 overs in nets. We’ll be running him into the ground and I’ll be making sure he does extra weight sessions and run throughs to put pressure on that body,” he said with a smile.
“I’m joking obviously. I want a fit Ben Stokes playing his best cricket at the Ashes. I want both teams at their best, going hard at it and I think it will be an unbelievable series to watch.
“He’s going to be huge for us (at Chennai) too, particularly if we can get him bowling. Having those all-rounders is really important. He’s only had a couple of net sessions and looks to be hitting the ball really well. That’s really exciting.
“It’s the first time we’ve been able to play in Chennai for a few years. For the first home game the atmosphere is going to be out of this world. I can’t wait and I’m sure Stokesy is going to absolutely love it. That’s the thing with those big players, they generally like a big stage and perform their best on it.
“Once he gets out there in Chepauk Stadium in front of an unbelievably loud crowd, I hope it’s going to bring out the best in him.”
Hussey, who is set to lead Welsh Fire in The Hundred later this year, has held discussions with England’s one-day coach Matthew Mott about reprising his role as batting consultant for the 50-over World Cup in the autumn.
He currently has other commitments, including television work, that need to be ironed out but the ECB is confident a deal can be struck. “I’ve spoken about it, but it’s up in the air,” he said.
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