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    India v England: Ben Stokes' journey to 100 Tests is one of the most compelling stories in British sport
India v England: Ben Stokes' journey to 100 Tests is one of the most compelling stories in British sport
Ben Stokes via espncricinfo.com

India v England: Ben Stokes' journey to 100 Tests is one of the most compelling stories in British sport

Ben Stokes is correct once again. He rarely makes mistakes nowadays.

The England captain will earn his 100th cap during the third Test against India in Rajkot, starting on Thursday. He believes it is simply a number, and indeed it is, albeit another statistic in a career of remarkable achievements.

This is the individual with more Test runs for England than Denis Compton, Michael Vaughan, and Jack Hobbs, as well as more wickets than Jim Laker, Sydney Barnes, and Angus Fraser.

If his knee allows him to take three more wickets, he will become only the third person to achieve the double of 6,000 Test runs and 200 wickets. The other two who have achieved this feat are Jacques Kallis and Sir Garfield Sobers, both considered Mount Rushmore cricketers.

Stokes has hit 128 sixes in Test cricket, which is already a record that puts him ahead of anyone else who has played the game. By the time he finishes his career, he could have a record that will never be broken.

Evaluating Stokes solely based on statistics is akin to assessing the Rolling Stones solely on their musical instruments. While there have been cricketers with better statistics and greater fame, and perhaps a few who were more influential, few have possessed Stokes' commanding presence.

He has the ability to carry an entire nation on his back, not just as an all-rounder but also as a captain. Despite the team's struggles, Stokes stood out with his red hair, tattoos, and confident demeanour. He quickly became a legend, defying the odds and inspiring hope. It is important to note that the improved text closely follows the source text and only makes changes to improve clarity, conciseness, and formality without altering the core message or introducing new content

Stokes made his debut in the second Test in Adelaide during the 2013-14 Ashes tour, a difficult period for English cricket.

Although the big announcement may have come during his second match, when Mitchell Johnson was bowling on a Perth pitch with cracks wide enough to swallow a small child, 22-year-old Stokes had already demonstrated his courage on debut by clashing with Brad Haddin and standing up to Johnson.

Perhaps without even realising it, being at the epicentre of an implosion helped shape Stokes' philosophy on leadership, which he is now employing a decade later.

Following the Ashes tour, there were numerous occasions when Stokes could have lost his way. A broken hand from punching a locker was partly responsible for him playing in only two Tests the following summer, batting at number eight and failing to score a single run in three innings.

Stokes has missed 28 Tests since his debut, compared to Joe Root's two.

Some of these absences were due to career-threatening reasons. The Bristol incident of 2017 was highly publicised, and Stokes even faced booing from some Trent Bridge spectators after being cleared of affray the following year. Stokes also struggled with his mental health, which caused him to miss the 2021 home summer. This struggle was laid bare in a documentary.

Despite the off-field trauma, Stokes has built an anthology of epic performances, demonstrating an ability to make Test cricket bend to his will. These performances include an all-round display to beat Brendon McCullum's New Zealand at Lord's in 2015, an astonishing 258 against South Africa at Cape Town in 2016, last-gasp wickets on the same ground in early 2020 - his own favourite Test - and 176 against West Indies later that year.

The Headingley heroics of 2019, an unbeaten 135, may be considered the greatest innings played by an Englishman, resulting in one of the most stunning wins of all time.

This masterpiece not only cemented his reputation as English cricket's patron saint of lost causes (let's not forget the World Cup final at Lord's), but also inspired tribute knocks - at Lord's and Headingley again in last summer's Ashes.

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