Ben Stokes reveals his battle to overcome nerves and self doubt

Published: Tuesday 19th January 2016 by The News Editor

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Ben Stokes was as astounded as everyone watching by some of the shots he played in his brilliant double-century against South Africa in Cape Town.

Stokes, one of England’s men of the moment after his 258 in the second Test of their series victory, struggled to believe what he was doing at times as he smashed 30 fours and 11 sixes in a wonderful display of sustained hitting against the world’s number one team.

It is hard to credit there is any element of self-doubt, once Stokes gets going with bat in hand.

But the man himself has spelled out, in a Daily Telegraph interview with former England captain Michael Vaughan, that he has questioned his own ability throughout his career – and still suffers from nerves when the time comes to perform.

“As I have gone up in levels, I have always thought I’m not good enough,” said the 24-year-old all-rounder.

“I remember my first game for Durham, I was petrified. My first game for Cumbria, I was sick after lunch because of the nerves.”

Even for England, Stokes is amazed sometimes how well things are going – not least this week in the series-sealing win at the Wanderers, where he felt the pressure to follow up his heroics of Newlands.

“Sometimes I can’t believe I have hit a good shot.

“In Joburg, I hit (Morne) Morkel over his head for four. It just happened …

“I played the shot and then thought ‘oh God, how did that happen?. Did I do that?’.”

Stokes is adamant he, and his team-mates, owe their resurgence to the simple man-management and tactical awareness of new England coach Trevor Bayliss and his assistant Paul Farbrace.

He finds it difficult to stay attentive even through a full 15-minute team talk, but knows the advice is always spot on.

“It is just hard to concentrate.

“But Farby and Trevor have completely changed the way we think about playing cricket.

“There used to be so many theories and ideas going into it – and we got drawn away from the way we played for our counties, which is what got us playing for England in the first place.”

Stokes insists his captain Alastair Cook has benefited too.

“If you look at Cooky, okay, he has not been at his best with the bat here in South Africa – but last year he was amazing, scoring hundreds, double-hundreds and captained really well.

“[The new culture] has changed him as a person.

“He does not seem to be as worried or stressed, even when we have had a bad day. The change in him has been impressive.”

Stokes did not have a care in the world either, by the time he was past 200 in Cape Town where, he remembers, that – true to England’s new-found adventure – he was given free rein to go for every shot he fancied.

“By the end Jos (Buttler) came out with a message from Cooky saying: ‘we are thinking of declaring at 630 – do you want time to get 300?’ I said ‘I am trying to hit every ball for six, so it doesn’t matter’.

“I hit a six, then another six and then got out – and when I walked back in I said ‘I told you so’.”

Published: Tuesday 19th January 2016 by The News Editor

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