England must make the most of Ben Stokes now as uncertainty lies beyond World Cup

Back in action: Ben Stokes is making his ODI return for England against New Zealand (PA)
Back in action: Ben Stokes is making his ODI return for England against New Zealand (PA)

There were elements of Ben Stokes’s press conference here in Cardiff on Thursday that could have been plucked from any of the many he gave during the summer’s rollercoaster Ashes.

Ahead of his return to the ODI side against New Zealand on Friday, there was talk about the legacy of that series, of the future of Test cricket, the changing landscape of the global game, franchise conflicts and the genius of Harry Brook. He even wore the same bucket hat.

And then, of course, there was the knee, sport’s most discussed hinge, which continues to try to make a mortal of England’s superhuman all-rounder, consigned, as he was by the end of the Ashes, to a batting-only brief.

Stokes has given up a six-month break to be part of England’s World Cup defence, one which had been pencilled in as a once-and-for-all opening to resolve the chronic issue, be it by undergoing surgery or putting his feet up.

The 32-year-old says that, instead, he has a “very good plan in place” for post-World Cup, when England have a shorter window of around two months before the Test tour of India, which sounds promising but is not all that different from the hopeful prognosis offered both at the end of last winter’s tour of New Zealand and at the time of the Fifth Ashes Test.

The truth is probably that Stokes and his specialists do not yet know whether any of the avenues open to them can fully restore England’s talisman to the three-facet cricketer he wants to be: namely one capable of winning matches with ball, as well as bat and brain.

And so, for the next 10 weeks, that problem is one for another day, all focus on the road to Ahmedabad, where Jos Buttler’s side hope to be crowned world champions again on November 19. Uncertainty for Stokes lies beyond. England must make the most of him now.