Why the value of Ben Stokes goes beyond numbers

Today we welcome Aussie writer Charbel Coorey to TFT. Here’s his assessment of Ben Stokes from an Australian perspective. It’s good to know that our rivals appreciate what a special cricketer he is too …

If you tweet, get it done as fast as you can between balls or overs. If you need to go to the bathroom, it can wait. Want a snack? That can wait, too. If a game is hanging in the balance, you can count on one man to grab it and hold it safely for England. And you don’t want to miss any of it.

As an Australian, I know all too well the impact that Ben Stokes can have on a cricket match. While the nightmare of Headingley 2019 is etched in memory, one can only appreciate the presence Stokes provides on a cricket field. The kind great players possess.

A quick glance at his Test record might suggest otherwise to those infatuated with sheer numbers. Although Stokes averages more with the bat than ball, he ranks fourth among current Test all-rounders in terms of difference between batting and bowling averages (minimum 40 Tests). A Test average of 36.54 and bowling average of 32.68 might be considered good but not great, but avid watchers of the game will know better than to make such a quick and ill-informed conclusion.

Indeed, while we obsess over numbers as cricket lovers, the game goes beyond mere statistics. Other questions must be asked. How does a player perform under pressure? Does he prop up his numbers with runs and wickets when the going is easy? Or does he deliver in the most challenging of circumstances, forcing opposition players and fans to believe that the game isn’t over until his threat is nullified?

After all, a century on a flat pitch after coming in at 3/300 looks better for the career average than a half century against the odds. The 2019 World Cup Final was always alive for England provided Stokes was at the crease. The Ashes of 2019, which seemed lost for England at Headingley, were always alive provided Stokes was at the crease. Tim Paine, who seldom enjoys success with reviews, was bound to panic as long as Stokes was at the crease.

England as a Test side with Stokes compared to without Stokes are two very different pictures. As you hold up the two pictures, one is painted with conviction, belief, and a sense of expectation that the desired result would be met. The second picture looks far less convincing; one that began relying on hope rather than expectation, seeking a source of direction and inspiration that eventually doesn’t come.

Compare the Headingley run chase of 2019 with that of Adelaide in 2017/18. England entered the final day of both Tests in similar positions, with the hope of winning. At Adelaide, England needed 178 with six wickets in hand, with Joe Root at the crease. At Headingley, they needed 203 with seven wickets in hand, with Root again at the crease overnight. England lost convincingly at Adelaide, and would have also done so at Headingley, had a certain all-rounder not been present. Like an annoying fly buzzing around your head, Australia couldn’t be totally comfortable unless Stokes was dismissed.

It proved to be the case.

Time and time again, Stokes is England’s go to man, delivering when his side really needs him to. Even away from home, which is how players are often judged, Stokes, who ranks fourth among all-rounders for the difference between batting and bowling averages, ranks first for difference between home and away averages.

Think back to his superb 258 at Cape Town. No doubt it was a good batting track, but England were tottering at 167/4. As England fans know, that can mean an ugly collapse to an under-par first innings total; one where the likes of James Anderson and Stuart Broad have to toil away to get England back in the contest. Or at least keep their heads above water. Instead, England played from in front, and kept their 1-0 series lead heading into the next Test of what proved to be a successful series.

The same year, Stokes stood in Bangladesh’s way of making history, winning man of the match at Chittagong. His crucial 85 in the second innings, along with match figures of 6/46 in 25.3 overs in spin-friendly conditions, saw England home by just 22 runs. A year later, Stokes played a vital role in England’s first ever Test clean sweep in Asia, defeating Sri Lanka 3-0.

Fast forward to 2020. The difficult episode of the 2016 World T20 Final is long forgotten. So too the most difficult episode of all; the fight outside a bar that led to his arrest and standing down from the England team. He was handed another opportunity to showcase his talent, and he was not going to let it go in a hurry. As if the man runs on an endless battery, 2020 began where 2019 finished off, as he brought England back into the series in South Africa with a superb all-round display in Cape Town. A 47-ball 72 enabled a quicker England declaration, but the headline moment was Stokes taking three wickets late on day five to get England over the line.

Again, had he not been there, the picture would have looked much like the unconvincing one which lacks inspiration. The one that lacks conviction. The one that is in need of direction. Stokes was the hero once again, as he won his eighth man of the match award in Tests; the best ratio of any current all-rounder.

Now, England sit back and wonder. Will this man will finish his career as England’s best ever all-rounder? Given his ability to deliver in times of need over simply boosting statistics when the going is easy, Stokes is well and truly in the conversation. Without a doubt.

Charbel Coorey



  • The more I think about traditional cricket stats, the more I think they don’t reflect the reality of the game.

    Cricket is a team sport, but most of the stats are individual stats.

    Individual achievements can only be judged by the contribution they make to the team winning games.

    • Agreed. Stats tell a story but there needs to be context. I’m sure if one breaks down Stokes’ statistics on big occasions / finals / run chases etc they would look better than his overall record.

      • Individuals don’t win games; teams win games. Therefore, individual stats are almost meaningless.

        Stats need to be team-focused, not individual-focused (collective batting performance, collective bowling performance, collective fielding and wicketkeeping performance).

    • I agree. Stats are fascinating but it’s gone to far. The Sky type analysis of discussing the Statistical minutiae of every stroke and delivery gets in the way of simply sitting back and enjoying the cricket!

  • Yea verily you will love Ben Stokes and we will never relent until you succumb.

    Without double-checking, the figures for Sobers were +24 (and if the two RoW series are added would be even better because he was a monster in those) and Imran +17. Neither of them fractured anybody’s eye socket that I can recall (except possibly by accident with a cricket ball).

    The home /away figures merely confirm that Jadeja is plumped by home performances which anyone who hasn’t been asleep for the last five years already knew. Stokes missed out on one of the toughest away tours and played in India almost entirely as a batsman so his bowling figures didn’t get hammered. Botham and Flintoff must wish they’d thought of that after what their bodies endured bowling for England.

    This idea that Stokes’ greatness isn’t somehow reflected in the stats is one of those peculiar fictions that grows up from time to time, usually to protect some sainted player who isn’t quite as good as the PR Department want to claim. Remember how a few years ago it was that no bowler could average below 25 anymore because…. reasons? Unless it can be shown over a large number of matches that something fundamental has changed in the game, the traditional stat benchmarks still apply (in the longer form – T20 and shorterforms probably do need different metrics).

    I didn’t always dislike Stokes. I wrote countless comments saying that he should have gone to the 2014 WC and that Moores was an idiot for batting him at No.8 only to be shouted down. I defended Stokes when he punched the locker. I’m not defending him after that night in Bristol because a) his behavious stank and he was a repeat offender and b) justice wasn’t done and much about that night will never be clear (which does not mean I think he was guilty – it means because he was inexplicably charged with the wrong offense and he never answered for the proper charges). I am a believer in “he served his time…. ” but Stokes never did, that’s the point.

  • Great to see Stokes extraordinary talent recognised outside his own country, where his off field misdemeanours still seem to play a major part in his acceptance. Those who find his hot headed antics unacceptable are always using his as yet ordinary stats as a justification for his ‘overrated’ status.
    Stokes is clearly still a work in progress, but even so he is the key member of our side, above Root and Anderson as potential match winners. Without him there is no one close as a replacement. It was interesting to see the Windies using the dual between him and Jason Holder as the key to the series. Personally I don’t rate Holder as a true all rounder, he’s a decent bowler who can use the long handle.

    • Yeah a decent bowler who has massively better bowling stats. And on top of that has to captain the West Indies side, where politics is sadly never far removed from decisions being made and issues being dealt with. As for Holder’s batting stats being slightly worse, part of it is undoubtedly due to batting at number 8 (and still scoring more runs than Ben did whenever he batted from #7 through #11).

      As for work in progress, Ben is a older than Holder, and has played 50% more matches than Holder (63 vs 40). But obviously, Holder is the finished article.

      It is funny how you just basically argue that Holder is a decent cricketer, despite having the better overall stats than Stokes, yet you’re arguing on the basis of the stats that they don’t do justice to Stokes, but they are misleading to the n-th degree with regards to Holder.

      Yeah, not buying that.

      • Stokes is an impact player and since getting Into the England side has performed In a site more crucial situations than Holder, who bats at 8 because that’s about his level. Holder’s not in the same class in my view and we’ve yet to see the best of Stokes.
        There’s lies, damn lies and statistics. Unless you put them in context they’re meaningless.
        Be honest if you had to pick one you’re telling me you’d pick Holder over Stokes? Really?
        Listen to what opposing captains have had to say about Stokes. They see him as a greater threat generally than either Root or Anderson and he’s a brilliant fielder in almost any position.
        Holder’s not exactly setting the world alight in the lead up contests either.

    • The part I don’t agree with is the work-in-progress bit. By the age of 29 and after almost a decade of international cricket, you’re a fully-fledged international cricketer. I always wonder if this is an English thing or if other countries have a similar attitude: is Holder considered to be a work in progress, for example, or Hazlewood, Tom Latham, de Kock, Mohammed Shami? (It’s also what leads England selectors sometimes to block up the Lions team with uncapped 30+-year-olds like Gleeson and Northeast who have absolutely zero chance of having a substantial England career).

      One thing I’m hoping for this series is that the withdrawal of two front-line batsman and the emergence of Cornwall–who’s a slightly better batsman than most WI bowlers in the last few years– finally encourages Holder to bat himself at 7. It’s seemed to me that they’ve been rather selling themselves short by hiding him at 8 and by using Chase as a fifth bowler, essentially in order to buy a place for an extra batsman whose performances don’t really warrant it.

      • Gooch didn’t come into his own until into his early 30’s, which is quite common for batsmen at test level. All rounders have to work at so many parts of the game that it can take them even longer to mature, look at the likes of Hadlee, Imran and Kapil, not to mention the South African contingent of Rice, Barlow and Proctor and more recently Kallis. No one in the England set up really knows where Stokes is best with bat or ball yet. He has preferred positions at 5 and 2nd change but is that where he’s going to be most effective. We don’t know as there are so many permutations open to him as he continues to develop his game.

  • Stokes going to captain England. Just a coincidence this is how it’s worked out of course.


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