Ben Stokes believes the gruelling fitness and rehabilitation work he has put in after his knee surgery could extend his career, but warned he was “nowhere near ready” to consider bowling competitively.
Stokes underwent surgery on his longstanding knee issue in November, and admitted the procedure was a “last option” after experiencing the “danger sign” of swelling at the World Cup.
Stokes, 32, has slimmed down since the operation through a combination of cutting alcohol, skipping team golf trips, and a demanding fitness and rehabilitation regime, and declared himself fit to captain England in the first Test against India on Thursday. Camp insiders believe his weight loss is thought to be close to 10 kilograms since deciding to go under the knife at the end of last year.
Opening up for the first time on the exact nature of the operation, which was conducted by the world-renowned knee surgeon Andy Williams, Stokes said: “I had some stitches put in my meniscus and I had a big bone spur taken out of my knee. It was a bit more than [just] a clean-out.
“It’s not like you have surgery and you are immediately better. Surgery is always the last option. Surgeries can go very well but they can also sometimes not go too well, and set people back even further, and potentially even end careers.
“As long as I felt I could do my job to a certain extent, we were always pushing surgery back as long as we could. But after the World Cup, in terms of how my knee was by the end, and the swelling that came out, that was a danger sign for the surgeon, and it was definitely time to have the surgery.
“I’ve worked very hard to get myself into this condition. Hopefully it is something that will give me a little bit longer [playing cricket] as we’re getting to that point... I’m 32 now, and sport isn’t here forever. I want to play for England as long as I possibly can. The older you get, the harder you work.”
Stokes says that after a training camp in Abu Dhabi, he is batting with greater comfort now, and believes that weight loss has helped.
“I worked really hard at the World Cup,” he said. “I had a big pre-op schedule to follow. Because obviously the less weight you’re carrying, the less weight you’ve got going through your knee and actually, the quicker your recovery is, which I think allowed me to progress a lot quicker than we actually thought.”
He is not expected to bowl until the summer, however, with his rehabilitation continuing in the period when the Indian Premier League takes place in April and May. He chose not to play in this year’s tournament.
“Bowling is such an unnatural thing for the body to go through that it’s not going to be a case of right, I’m good now, straight back into bowling,” he said. “Remember the last ball I bowled was actually in the Ashes at Lord’s [in June]. So my body is nowhere near ready to even be thinking about competitive bowling at the moment, but if I get to a stage in this tour where we can start building myself back up to bowling, then hopefully by the summer that’s where I’ve earmarked as playing a full role I want to be doing.”