England captain Jos Buttler believes Ben Stokes’ retirement from one-day cricket should act as a “wake-up call” for the game, as he faces up to his own challenge of finding a way to replace his star all-rounder.
Stokes bade farewell to the 50-over game with a disappointing 62-run defeat against South Africa at his home ground in Durham, drawing the curtain on an 11-year career that will always be remembered for his stunning performance in the 2019 World Cup final.
The 31-year-old has made it clear he is departing sooner than intended, a stark reaction to a relentless fixture schedule that no longer allows him to meet his own high standards across three different formats.
Stokes has said England’s calendar has become “unsustainable” and broadened the warning in interviews ahead of his farewell appearance, which yielded figures of nought for 44 from five overs and an innings of just five.
And it is clear that Buttler shares his concerns. England are seven games through a run of 12 white-ball internationals in 24 days, with four Test matches already in the books and three against the Proteas still to come.
“It should definitely be a bit of a wake-up call. Absolutely. Especially with the magnitude of the player,” he said.
“Ben’s one of the most recognisable players in world cricket, someone everyone wants to see play in every format. I’m sure there’s more to it than the schedules etc but I think in international cricket you always want your best players playing if possible.
“It’s bittersweet as an England fan… there’s a bit of sadness that Ben is no longer available in this form of the game. But our loss in ODI cricket is certainly going to be England’s gain in Test cricket.
“That’s his favoured format and his priority, especially now he’s captain, and I’m sure it will give him much more longevity in the purest form of the game.”
Buttler has had a tough start to his tenure, losing the T20 and ODI series against India and already facing another series decider against the South Africans at Old Trafford on Friday.
With five defeats and two wins on his ledger since taking over from Eoin Morgan, he has now accepted that forging his own path is not going to be an easy challenge or an immediate success.
“We’re probably moving through a bit of a transition phase with Eoin going and Ben going. That’s the natural cycle of teams,” he said.
“We have to find ways to give people opportunities to replace those guys. People who play like Ben are once in a generation players, so it’s a good challenge for us to work out our best way forward as a team without him.
“It presents chances for others to step up in different roles and take more responsibility.”