England Test captain Ben Stokes has launched a defence of the five-day game, and raised concerns over the sport’s international schedule, saying authorities do not give the matter enough thought.

In a BBC radio interview with former England great Sir Ian Botham, Stokes discussed the state of cricket and spoke of his dislike for Test cricket being overshadowed by the focus on international white-ball cricket, and a variety of T20 franchise competitions attracting players with bigger pay packets. 

“Test cricket has been spoken about in a way I don’t like. It is losing the attention of the fans, with all the new formats and franchise competitions,” Stokes said on BBC radio.

“We understand there are so many opportunities for players away from Test cricket. But, for me, it is so important for the game. I love playing Test cricket and felt we could do something different.

“Taking the result away from the mindset is a great starting point. Putting focus on making every day entertaining. Not allowing people to know what is going to happen.

“If people turn up excited about what they are going to watch, you’ve already won before a ball has been bowled.”

Stokes took over as England’s Test captain in April, soon followed by the arrival of former New Zealand international cricketer Brendon McCullum as the national coach.

An England cricket captain raises his finger in the air to salute the crowd and celebrate victory in a Test match.
Under Ben Stokes’ captaincy and the coaching of Brendon McCullum, England’s cricket fortunes have soared.(Getty Images: Matthew Lewis)

Under the pair, England has had a Test resurgence, playing an uninhibited attacking style dubbed “Baz-ball” that has led to success, including an unprecedented 3-0 clean sweep in Pakistan.  

Botham supported the approach of Stokes and McCullum.

“It’s about putting bums on seats. People now want to watch the game,” Botham said.

“You will lose the odd game, but people are wanting to see Test cricket again. If we lose Test cricket, we lose cricket as we know it.”

An Australian fast bowler raises his arms in triumph in the background as England batsman looks dejected after being given out.
Australia thrashed England 3-0 in an ODI series that started just days after the English team won the T20 World Cup.(Getty Images: NurPhoto/Izhar Khan)

Stokes highlighted England’s three-match, one-day international series in Australia in November, which started four days after they won the Twenty20 World Cup.

He described it as a “series which meant nothing”.

“The scheduling doesn’t get enough attention that it should,” Stokes said.

“Some people say, ‘You are playing for England, that should be enough’, but there is a lot more to factor in.”

Stokes announced his retirement from ODIs in July, citing the “unsustainable” rigour of playing all three formats of the game.

The 31-year-old was part of the England team that won the ODI World Cup in 2019.

“You want international cricket to be [of] the highest standard. But we have seen a lot of different squads being picked and players being rested, and that’s not the way international cricket should go,” Stokes added.

Reuters / ABC