ICC Champions Trophy Betting: IPL adventure has prepared Stokes to be the star

Ben Stokes is now relishing the pressure of being England's main man
Ben Stokes is now relishing the pressure of being England's main man

England start the ICC Champions Trophy as favourites and Ralph Ellis says their talisman player is ready to thrive on that pressure...


"Stokes, whisper it softly, seems to be mastering the art of dealing with that pressure and there are surely more runs to come. As the Champions Trophy begins he is an appealing bet at 9.28/1 to be England’s top run scorer."

I'm fascinated by the advance of sports science. The latest is that Ben Stokes will be one of three England players experimenting with a new micro chip during the ICC Champions Trophy.

A little gadget inside the handle of his bat will measure speed, angles, power and doubtless lots of other things, feeding back all the technical information to the army of support staff that now works with an international side.

But however much that data might be intriguing, I still can't help but feel that in the case of Stokes, the man who has become England's talisman, the most important measurements will still relate to what's going on in the six inches between each of his ears.

And that's where England will benefit from having let Stokes go and earn a fortune playing in the Indian Premier League.

It was rather fascinating to hear this week how Andrew Strauss, who passionately opposed Kevin Pietersen playing in the IPL, has completely changed his views. Interviewed by the BBC on Monday Strauss was glowing about how playing in the IPL has taken Ben Stokes to a whole new level, and how England would benefit the most.

As Strauss pointed out, Stokes might have earned £1.7m for his six weeks work, but what he really got from it was the experience of playing, and delivering under pressure. I was driving when I heard the interview so couldn't write it down, but the gist of what he said was this: "When you are getting that money you are expected to justify it, and learning how to step up and deliver the goods under that scrutiny is a unique experience."

He might have been wrong about Pietersen, but he isn't wrong now. When the ICC Champions Trophy starts at The Oval tomorrow, Stokes will be the key man if England are to justify their status as 4.1 favourites.

He has already proved in the ODI series against South Africa just how much he took from his time with Pune Supergiants.

You only have to look at the statistics. He only played two of the three matches and yet was England's second highest run scorer with 126, just 35 behind Eoin Morgan. His 101 in the second ODI at Southampton was masterful.

Being the go-to man can be a burden. It was one of the reasons behind Kevin Pietersen's split personality because it isn't easy when you always take the blame for a bad score but rarely get the credit for a good one because it was just what everybody expected.

But Stokes, whisper it softly, seems to be mastering the art of dealing with that pressure and there are surely more runs to come. As the Champions Trophy begins he is an appealing bet at 9.28/1 to be England's top run scorer.

Joe Root 3.55/2 inevitably heads that market but was inconsistent in the warm-up series, averaging just 26 across his three knocks. Second favourite Alex Hales 3.9 fared only three runs on average better.

England couldn't have asked for a kinder first game, especially after that embarrassing start against South Africa at Lord's when they collapsed to 20-6. Bangladesh have had their own massive knock to their confidence after getting rolled over by India for just 84.

Any team that lifts the trophy always needs one superstar, and Stokes - who also says his bowling has improved thanks to six weeks working in India with South African Eric Simons - is most likely to be that man (he's 6.25/1 to be England's top wicket taker).

I'm sure the pages of data generated by the new gizmo in his bat will fascinate the scientists. We'll just be happy to understand the bit on the betting slip where it spells out the winnings.


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