Stokes wants squad to ‘enjoy’ series; no thought of quitting tour, says Babar - GulfToday

Stokes wants squad to ‘enjoy’ series; no thought of quitting tour, says Babar

Mohammad Rizwan

Pakistan’s Mohammad Rizwan bats during a training session on Wednesday. Courtesy: PCB Twitter

Stand-in captain Ben Stokes has urged England’s new one-day squad to “enjoy” their unexpected chance against Pakistan and play with “a smile on our face”.

England’s original plans for a three-match one-day international series were torn to shreds just 48 hours before Thursday’s opener in Cardiff after all the originally selected squad were forced to self-isolate when three players and four support staff all tested positive for Covid-19.

That led England having to hastily assemble an entirely new 18-man squad, with Stokes parachuted in as captain in place of fellow World Cup-winner and regular white-ball skipper Eoin Morgan.

Stokes had originally been left out by England to continue his recovery from a finger injury suffered while playing in the Indian Premier League.

But the star all-rounder now finds himself captaining an England squad featuring nine uncapped players and several surprise recalls.

One consolation is that all of England’s new group of players and staff, including head coach Chris Silverwood, who was meant to be taking a break during the Sri Lanka and Pakistan ODIs, have tested negative for Covid-19.

“Situations like these are so rare and such a fluster, I would say you have got a chance to represent your country so let’s do it with a smile on our face and just enjoy it as much as we can as a group,” Stokes told a conference call on Wednesday.

Stokes admitted he was stunned by the timing of his England return, given team management had indicated they wanted him to continue working his way back with Durham.

“It was the last call I was expecting, late in the evening,” he said. ‘Spoons’ (Silverwood) straight up asked me the question ‘Can you come and do it?’.

“After the call happened my wife sent me a screenshot of an article saying ‘England aren’t going to rush Ben Stokes back’. It’s one of these situations that’s an example of ‘if you don’t laugh you’ll cry’.

“But it was like when I came back for Durham a bit earlier, my job needed me to do something, so I had to stand up and do that.”

Meanwhile, Pakistan captain Babar Azam said on Wednesday there was no thought of abandoning the team’s white-ball tour of England after learning of a major coronavirus outbreak within the home squad. Two days before the series was scheduled to begin, England announced that seven of its personnel - three players and four members of the backroom staff - had tested positive for coronavirus.

With the rest of squad instructed to isolate after being identified as close contacts, the tour - featuring three ODIs and three Twenty20 matches - could have been in jeopardy but the England and Wales cricket Board hastily assembled an entirely new 18-strong squad from across England’s county game.

Asked whether there was any temptation to call off the trip, Babar said: “No, we didn’t think about it, it didn’t come into our minds at any time.

“The PCB (Pakistan cricket Board) and ECB have assured us that they will take care of the safety and health of all the squad members. Of course it was disappointing news. We must understand that these are unprecedented times of COVID-19. We are focusing on cricket and the first game.”

That comes on Thursday in Cardiff and Babar was keen to underline that Pakistan will not be underestimating a revised England squad containing nine players uncapped at the ODI level.

“We can’t take any player playing for England lightly,” said Babar, the top-ranked ODI batsman who has represented Somerset in English county cricket over the last couple of years.

“They may be new players but they are playing for England. I know a few of them having played in the T20 Blast and those we don’t know we have researched their performances.”

Ben Stokes will captain England in its emergency, having been left out of the original group to continue his recovery from finger surgery.


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