Sidebottom labels ‘phenomenal’ Stokes as England great after T20 World Cup heroics3 min read
Ben Stokes has earned the right to be called an England great after the “once-in-a-generation player” guided Jos Buttler’s side to T20 World Cup glory.
That was the message from former England seamer Ryan Sidebottom, who was speaking to Stats Perform after Stokes’ 52 not out saw sealed a five-wicket victory over Pakistan in Sunday’s final.
The all-rounder came to the crease at the MCG with England 32-2 in their pursuit of 138, but produced a well-crafted innings to record his first T20I half-century on the biggest occasion.
Sidebottom labelled the Test captain as one of England’s best players off all time after Stokes became just the third player to score 50-plus runs in both an ODI World Cup and T20 World Cup final.
Asked whether Stokes was now an England legend, Sidebottom said: “I would say so, most definitely. He’s probably got to be.
“He could be called Sir Ben Stokes at some stage, but I think he’s done it so many times now you can’t argue with that.
“With what he’s done in the key moments under pressure, he’s the man to do it. You have a once-in-a-generation player and when the big occasion comes around, more often than not, he turns up.
“He turns it on, and it makes things happen. Look at the Ashes and the 2019 World Cup. It’s almost crazy to say this, but it’s almost like he’s just playing a regular game in the park.
“He doesn’t worry about the situation, or what type of game he’s playing in. I think he’s just saying, ‘I’m out here. I’m just going to play my game. And I’ll see us over the line’.
“Once you strip it all back and you keep it very simple, it certainly changes how you play as a player – he’s been phenomenal.”
Stokes suffered T20 World Cup final heartbreak in 2016 when Carlos Brathwaite smashed him for four successive sixes to win the competition for West Indies.
Sidebottom says the honesty and professionalism of Stokes to respond to that setback is what sets him apart from the rest.
“Having played a professional sport, there’s always highs and lows,” he added. “There’s always negatives, there’s always days when it doesn’t go your way and maybe your opposition number gets the better of you or you just have a bad day out.
“You’ll either learn from that, or you can sulk about it and let it affect you. What Ben Stokes has done after that World Cup final, since then, he has never ever looked back.
“The things that we’ve sort of seen away from the cricket, we’ve all done stupid things. We’ve all done things that we regret or we didn’t mean to do, you grow and mature and he’s done that.
“He’s done his time. He’s been open and honest. With his mental health issues and everything like that. Then his cricket has improved immensely and he’s turned himself into a mighty fine cricketer.”
Stokes has become accustomed to playing the hero for England in recent years, most notably in the victorious 2019 Cricket World Cup final against New Zealand and in the Ashes at Headingley in the same year.
The calm manner in which Stokes goes about his business is another key facet Sidebottom pinpointed, with his demeanour helping England rally to four straight wins to seal their second T20 World Cup crown.
“Ben Stokes is that calming influence, he doesn’t panic. He’s very level-headed and I think with someone like him, it runs through the team,” Sidebottom continued.
“When you’ve got a player like that with his stature, when he’s so calm at the crease, it certainly goes through the team.
“And the team say, ‘we don’t need to panic, we can easily win this game.’ It showed in the final and in the semi-final.
“It also showed in the Sri Lanka game where it was getting very close. Ben Stokes didn’t panic. The whole team are just accustomed now to playing in big tournaments and used to being under pressure a lot more.”