Picture credit: Greg Coleman / Red Bull Content Pool
Ben Stokes proved England’s star turn at both the Cricket World Cup and the Ashes last summer.
After the season of his career the all-rounder, who is currently playing for England against South Africa, reflected on the mentality that turned him into one of the world’s best.
When you talk to a young player, what would you tell them is the most important attribute to becoming successful?
It’s totally age-dependent. When you start taking it seriously and try to make a career out of it you’ve got to understand it will be amazing sometimes but also it ebbs and flows. You can go through really tough times and it’s being able to deal with that and trying to stay as level headed as you can. Never get too ahead of yourself when things are going well and don’t get down when things aren’t going so well.
What mental challenges did you face in the World Cup?
Mentally, it was when we got to a certain point we knew we had to win two games to progress which we handled very well. We sat down as a group and all said how we were feeling about it. On the biggest stage in a World Cup obviously knowing that people are going to be a bit nervous and almost a bit fragile about what we had to do - that was the biggest mental hurdle we had to overcome. Sitting down and talking about it at training the day before as a group for an hour massively helped us. It played an enormous role in how we played from that game onwards.
Do you think that momentum carried you to the Ashes?
I think getting out of the cricket bubble in terms of being away, being able to go back home chill out for a week and getting back to normal life. Being able to take the kids to school, cutting the grass, all that kind of stuff massively helped. Going home is a place where everyone can recharge their batteries and get themselves up to looking forward to what we had ahead of us even though it came around quickly. It was a weird place for the people involved in the World Cup squad also involved in the Ashes as well because we had some guys that just played Test cricket and that was the start of their summer. We had guys in the World Cup that had seven weeks of playing cricket, going through all sorts of emotions and a week later the Ashes started. We also spoke about that, we said as a group you understand that the guys just in the Test team it’s the start of their summer and they’re going to be excited about that but the Test guys appreciated we’d come off the back of the World Cup, seven weeks of playing and we’re probably in a different place mentally.
How do you stay focused in pressure situations?
When I’m batting I like to put myself in my bubble and nothing outside that bubble will get in and affect me. When I’m batting, the only thing that will affect me is what I have to do at that time. There’s lots of distractions that can make their way in. You’ve got the fielding team that might be trying to wind you up and I just don’t get into it as, if I do, I’m not thinking the right things if I get back into fielders or whatnot. They’ve done what they wanted to do as they’ve distracted me. So, I picture myself in a bubble and anything else is not getting in.
Do you have a positive mindset the whole time?
In that bubble, I’m going in my head looking at the scoreboard in terms of where we are in the game, what’s the situation in the game, how many runs do I need, how many overs are left so I’m thinking all of that. Especially in one-day cricket if we’re chasing a total and I’m there at the end, we’ve got a better chance of winning because I bat in the middle order. The more wickets we lose the more chance we’ve got that the tail has to come in and bat, who obviously their job isn’t to bat so I just tell myself if I’m here at the end we’ve got a better chance of winning the game.
What is more important, mental or physical ability?
Mental, definitely. Physically, you can improve by doing things. Mentally you’ve just got to work it out for yourself. You learn from experience and you figure out a way that works best for you. If you don’t have a good mental routine or a way to battle against when things aren’t going for you then no matter how physically fit or how strong or whatever it is you want to say you are then if you’re doubting yourself mentally then it’s pointless.
How do you handle the scrutiny or being a national sporting hero?
It comes with the territory I guess. If you do well at the highest level of whatever you choose to make a career out of then you’re going to be spoken about I guess. I’ve always tried to stay as level as I possibly can through everything. If I’m doing well I’ll always try to stay emotionally the same whereas if I go through a bad trot I’ll try to stay on the same level.
How do you handle being in the public eye?
I’m not going to let anything get in the way of me doing what I want to do with my spare time. Those moments to me are precious and you’ll probably never get those back so I try to do as much as I can especially while the kids are young and want to hang around their parents.
Who’s the best bowler you have faced?
Ryan Harris - I faced him when he was at his best.
And the best batsman you’ve bowled to?
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