England star Ben Stokes coy on plans for injured knee ahead of ODI return

Ben Stokes’s plans to address his knee injury have been pushed back  (Getty Images)
Ben Stokes’s plans to address his knee injury have been pushed back (Getty Images)

Ben Stokes has put any attempt to cure his long-standing knee problem on hold to focus on England’s World Cup defence, insisting he has “a very good plan in place” for after the tournament.

Stokes was tight-lipped on exactly what that would entail, but asked about the prospect of surgery admitted there was the “potential of something happening after the World Cup”.

The Test captain has been managing the chronic injury to his left knee for some time but it has worsened this year, severely restricting his ability to bowl since the winter tour to New Zealand, to the point where he finished this summer’s Ashes series playing as a specialist batter.

A six-month break between the Ashes and England’s next Test commitment, a five-match series in India in the New Year, had presented a rare gap in the calendar and appeared the ideal window for the 32-year-old to attempt to resolve the issue once and for all.

Instead, however, he has come out of 50-over retirement to join Jos Buttler’s side as they look become back-to-back world champions in India this autumn and will play his first ODI in more than a year when the four-match series against New Zealand gets underway in Cardiff tomorrow.

“It’s been a month since we finished the Ashes, it’s been a good chance to rest up and get into a good position for these one-dayers and the World Cup afterwards,” Stokes said.

“I’ve been having some good conversations with some specialists, rehab and physios, the surgeons, the guys who know what they are doing. There is a plan in place. I know what’s going to happen, I just don’t think now is right time to say what I’m doing.”

Should Stokes decide to go under the knife, he could use the gap between the end of the World Cup in mid-November and the start of England’s Test tour to India in late-January. Beyond that series, the schedule is more congested, with the IPL followed by a T20 World Cup in the USA and Caribbean, after which England play 12 Tests across the home summer and tours to New Zealand and Pakistan before the end of 2024.

Stokes confirmed he will play as a specialist batter during the World Cup, likely slotting in at No4, but insisted he remains desperate to continue his career as an all-rounder further down the line.

“I’m going to be doing some more intensive work from now until the summer next year around all that, making sure I’m giving myself the best chance I can of playing the next two to three years as an all-rounder,” Stokes said. “You go through different thoughts. At end of Ashes when had I another difficult series with the ball because my knee is sore, it’s like: ‘I can’t be bothered with this anymore, it’s just too hard’.

Ben Stokes battled knee trouble during this summer’s Ashes series (Getty Images)
Ben Stokes battled knee trouble during this summer’s Ashes series (Getty Images)

“But then you pull yourself away from that and keep pushing on, give yourself the best chance to do it. I get bored in the field not bowling.”

“We have got a very good plan in place,” he added. “The medical team have been brilliant, getting different opinions. It’s nice knowing after the World Cup we’ve got something, a really good plan we can do and we can stick to. I want to be playing next summer as a genuine all-rounder. This winter is all about playing this World Cup, then getting this knee sorted.”

Stokes retired from 50-over cricket last summer, shortly after taking over as Test captain, citing concerns over managing his workload across all three formats. However, conversations with Buttler and head coach Matthew Mott continued throughout his absence, with the door always open to a World Cup return.

“There were obviously just a lot of things to think about,” Stokes explained of his decision. “First and foremost, I needed to see how I got through the Ashes and then think about what I had after the World Cup, with the Test tour and all those things coming up.

“It was just about factoring all those things in. When I felt like I had to make a decision and make myself available, it was an easy one to make.

“Cricket now, if you play multiple formats, you’re looking at 10 or 11 months of the year. As you get older, going out on the field day in, day out does get a bit harder. There were a few things to weigh up but yeah, I’m going to the World Cup now, so it’s alright.”