Ben Stokes back for one last crack at World Cup glory but Yorkshire's Harry Brook left out in the cold
After all, it was just a few weeks ago that Moeen Ali heeded Stokes’s SOS to reverse his own retirement decision to play in the Ashes, making it doubly difficult, no doubt, for Stokes to reject entreaties to make himself available for one last hurrah.
Not that he needed much persuading according to Luke Wright, the national selector, who, in confirming Stokes’s return as a specialist batsman, described the corollary consequence, the omission of Yorkshire’s Harry Brook, to be “as hard a decision as you’re ever going to get”.
While it may hardly fall into the life or death category, it is nonetheless contentious and a blow to the 24-year-old batsman, who could yet be named as one of three travelling reserves when England finalise their squad next month.
“It wasn’t really a case of changing his mind,” said Wright of Stokes’s U-turn, with the Test captain retiring from ODI cricket last summer citing “unsustainable” workloads.
“He was always interested in coming back,” Wright went on. “It wasn’t a case of needing to beg him or anything like that; he was always keen.
“Once his body was in a good place and he’d had a rest (after the Ashes), he was really keen to play. We’re delighted from our point of view, and I’m sure England fans and everyone can be absolutely delighted.”
Stokes, who rarely bowls due to a troublesome left knee, was player of the match in the 2019 World Cup final against New Zealand and played another key role in England’s T20 World Cup success last winter. He is, Wright noted, “someone for the big moments”, whose presence will “give a big lift to the boys”.
As for Brook, unaccustomed to such pesky bumps in the road, Wright said: “There’s no denying what a superstar he is, and what a huge future he’s got with us going forward in all forms; that’s the incredibly tough decision we’ve had to make.
“I’m sure he’s disappointed but, unfortunately, in a 15-man squad, someone’s going to have to miss out. On this occasion it’s been him, but it didn’t make it any easier.”
Also surplus to requirements in a squad named initially for next month’s four-match ODI series against New Zealand are Ben Duckett and Will Jacks. The squad includes the uncapped Surrey fast bowler Gus Atkinson but not Jofra Archer (elbow).
Squad for four-match ODI series v New Zealand (Sep 8-15) and provisional World Cup party: Buttler (captain), Ali, Atkinson, Bairstow, Curran, Livingstone, Malan, Rashid, Root, Roy, Stokes, Topley, Willey, Wood, Woakes.
Squad for four-match T20 series v New Zealand (Aug 30-Sep 5): Buttler (captain), Ahmed, Ali, Atkinson, Bairstow, Brook, Curran, Duckett, Jacks, Livingstone, Malan, Rashid, Tongue, Turner, Wood.