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Ben Stokes urges cricket leaders to stop treating players like ‘cars’

Ben Stokes urges cricket leaders to stop treating players like 'cars'

Ben Stokes has urged authorities to stop thinking of players as “cars” and hopes his ODI retirement will be a wake-up call.

The all-rounder spoke for his 105th and final ODI after making the decision to withdraw from the format. In a statement describing his decision, he spoke of a desire to ease his burden, arguing that playing all three international codes “was now untenable for me”.

After taking on as the Test captain at the start of the summer, Stokes will continue to give “all I’ve got” to the longest format, as well as Twenty20. Coincidentally, the 31-year-old Stokes missed the T20 series against India to rest after test matches against New Zealand and India, and will not play in the T20s against South Africa following the ODI series, or The Hundred for the three Tests with the Proteas.

He spoke to the media ahead of Tuesday’s game, but he was stricter on his comments about an unsustainable schedule the previous day and believes the product on the pitch will suffer if nothing changes.

“We are not cars,” he told Test Match Special. “You can’t just fill us up and we go out and we’re ready to fill up again. We had a test series and then the one-day team had a series at the same time – that was kind of stupid.

“I just feel like too much cricket has been rammed in to let people play all three formats now. It’s a lot harder than it used to be. I look back to when I did all three and it didn’t feel like it was that packed You obviously want to play cricket as much as you can, but if it makes you feel tired and sore and has to look five or six months later for what you’re doing in the here and now, it probably isn’t the best.

“The more cricket played the better for the sport, but you want a product of the highest quality. You want the best players to play as much as possible, all the time, and it’s not just me or us. You see it now all over the world where teams have to rest some players in a certain series so they feel like they’re getting a break.”

Stokes also referred to the examples of James Anderson and Stuart Broad for what he hopes will be an extended career in the remaining two formats. Anderson and Broad last played cricket for England in 2015 and 2016 respectively, and are still crucial cogs in the Test Strike in 2022. Stokes even spoke to Broad about how the 36-year-old liked the lighter workload and was left convinced he could handle the right decision, especially if he wants to replicate Anderson and Broad’s tally of over 150 appearances in Tests.

“I asked Stuart if he thought not playing cricket with white balls was a reason he is still playing 160 Tests now. He said yes without a doubt. I want to play 140-150 Tests for England.

“It’s come much sooner than I would have liked at 31, giving up one of the sizes. T20 come, 2-3 overs here and there. Longevity I’ve been thinking about. Hopefully when I’m 35, 36 am, still Now playing test cricket, I can look back on this decision and say that I am very happy with it.”

Stokes also revealed that he came to the decision after the first ODI against India at the Oval on Tuesday 12th July. While consulting others, someone told him “if there is any doubt, there is no doubt” that he must renounce 50-over cricket. He then spoke to Jos Buttler, the captain of the limited overs, about his thoughts, which were initially focused on not being able to bowl his full complement of 10 overs. That inability to play a full-fledged, all-round role in competitions was ultimately the deciding factor.

“After that one-day match it hit me in the face. A short conversation with Jos after the game, I said that if the match had been in a different position, I would have bowled more for him. We had five minutes together, he said that you don’t owe the team anything and that a lot of cricket is on the way, that was nice to hear.

“I left and had five minutes to myself, I told him I almost felt a little useless that I can’t do that. It’s not a nice feeling, knowing I have to take care of myself, the captain is trying to take care of me , the medical team and the coach too. It’s international cricket, you can’t do that.”

Vithushan Ehantharajah is an associate editor for ESPNcricinfo