The cricket world has been warned.
Ben Stokes is in the prime of his life and ready to make history in 2019.
The 27-year-old is undoubtedly the most important figure for English cricket this year, with both the one day and Test teams revolving around his abilities with bat and ball as well as his hugely competitive character.
And with a World Cup and Ashes to come over the next six months, not to mention an IPL franchise looking for an early sprinkling of Stokes magic, the pressure and expectation is building by the day for him to cope with.
“I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was absolutely buzzing for this year,” said the England all rounder. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity we have, with the World Cup and Ashes one after the other at home.
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“I have a belief that if I do what I can in terms of preparation and training, then the skill and the ability I have will come out on the field. And yet I’m not going to get carried away. I’ve got to stay level-headed about it all and try not to put too much expectation on myself really.
“I’m 27 and I’m in the prime of my cricketing life and I want to be doing this for as long as I can so hopefully I can keep putting in the right sort of performances. People might have expectations of me, but I can’t control that or change that, I just try to stay on an even keel with it all and not worry about what others expect.”
But there will be a heck of a lot of expectation on his shoulders, none more so than at the IPL where he is pulling on the Rajasthan Royals shirt for the second time after being retained on his £1.4million contract.
The Royals made it to the semi-finals last year but didn’t perhaps see the best of Stokes, who had been the player of the tournament the year before for the Rising Pune Supergiants, but who had plenty of uncertainty to deal with on and off the field in 2018.
This time though things couldn’t be clearer for England’s talisman, who has put himself into the best physical shape he could possibly be in and is focused on showing what he can do at his best.
Stokes added: “I’m about giving everything that I can all the time, and I feel if I have that mindset for whatever team I’m playing then the rewards will come.
“You’ve got to take every game and every situation as it comes and not live off past successes. The teams that I’m representing and playing for know that I’ve given them everything and I want to build on what we did last year at the Royals.”
ENGLAND PLAYERS IN THE IPL
As one of a minimum 11 England-qualified players to be picked up for this season’s IPL, which begins on Saturday, Stokes is also keen to use his time in India to do a bit of research ahead of the summer.
He added: “I think having England players at different franchises in the IPL helps, with the World Cup coming up. Guys will be able to come back with certain information on players that we won’t know because they’ve spent time with them.
“They will be bowling at them, training with them and getting to know them so when it comes to the World Cup, that type of information is not something you can get from looking at a computer screen. That could help put us a step ahead when it comes to taking on some individual players.”
* The 2019 Vivo IPL begins this weekend, with the Rajasthan Royals playing Kings XI Punjab on Monday, March 25.
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