ODI World Cup 2023: England’s Head Coach Matthew Mott Provided Major Update On Ben Stokes’s Place In Playing XI Against SA

In the midst of the ICC World Cup, England faced a setback with their star all-rounder Ben Stokes sidelined due to a hip complaint. However, Stokes is now set to make his much-anticipated return, and it could be the spark England needs to reignite their World Cup campaign.

Stokes missed England’s initial three World Cup matches, and the consequences were felt as they suffered defeats to New Zealand and Afghanistan. These losses raised concerns about England’s prospects of reaching the semi-finals, with five wins required from their remaining six league games.

As England faced this predicament, Stokes’ return became a beacon of hope. The all-rounder batted twice in the nets during England’s stay in Delhi. While his return against Afghanistan was possible, the fixture against South Africa was the primary target.

England’s head coach, Matthew Mott, expressed his confidence in Stokes’ return, stating that the medical staff was “always confident” about targeting the South Africa match. Stokes, often seen as a senior figure in the team despite lacking an official leadership role, brings both skill and leadership qualities.

“We’ve obviously been relatively conservative with him, but the medical staff were always confident that South Africa was a game we could target. I haven’t had a report on him in the last 24 hours, but before that, he was on target. So fingers crossed, he can tick off all the things that need to be ticked off and he comes back into that side. He’s like the spiritual leader of the group in many ways, and he certainly spoke really well after the game the other day, and spoke about that need to really assert ourselves,” Matthew Mott, their head coach, said on Tuesday.

Stokes’ influence on the team extends beyond his on-field performances. He’s often called the group’s ” spiritual leader, ” and his voice carries weight in the dressing room. After the Afghanistan defeat, Stokes addressed the team, emphasizing the need to assert themselves.

Mott’s assessment of the team’s performance identified two key areas of concern: confidence and attitude. The players were commended for their effort and commitment, but it was clear that they needed to regain their confidence and exhibit a more proactive attitude, both with bat and ball.

The coach further added, “The boys are trying hard, but the two things that we’re probably missing are the confidence to puff your chest out, go out there and really take the game on and then it’s just our general attitude, our ability to do the little things: bowl in partnerships when we’re bleeding from one end… and then with the bat, just being a little bit braver. We pride ourselves on putting the opposition under pressure, and on reflection, we’ve been the reactive team in those two games. We need to turn that around really quickly.”

England’s style of play is characterized by aggression and dictating terms to the opposition. However, in the previous games, they appeared reactive rather than assertive. Stokes underlined the importance of returning to their trademark style, putting pressure on the opposing teams and unsettling them.

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Mott recalled, “Stokesy came in on the back of that and just really reinforced what was a great message – particularly someone who was sitting on the bench, and had a bit of a different lens. Like it did in the T20 World Cup, it [losing] backs you into a corner and you have to come out. We know when we go into that mode and we’re not as forceful and aggressive, other teams grow from that. That was one of Stokesy’s biggest points: we’re normally the team that dictates terms and gets the other team unsettled, disrupted. And for whatever reason, we haven’t been able to do that. It’s quite clear what we need to do.”

As Stokes returns to the playing XI, tactical decisions must be made. Harry Brook, who batted at No. 4 in Stokes’ absence, showed his class with a top-scoring performance against Afghanistan. The team now faces the dilemma of potentially replacing an all-rounder with Stokes, which would risk a shortage of bowling options. On the flip side, it would bolster their batting lineup, enabling them to attack more aggressively.

Mott acknowledges the need for a delicate balance, not just for the South Africa match but also considering the conditions. The question of utilizing Stokes’ capabilities without compromising the team’s overall balance is crucial.

Mott concluded, “It’s still up for debate. We’ll have some really good, robust conversations over the next 24 hours; try and work out what that best balance is, not just for South Africa, but for the conditions as well. Harry batted extremely well and I think everyone knows his class as a player so it’s a good problem to have. Whatever way we go, we’ll have a strong XI.”

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