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Tough spell made me realise how special England's spirit is: Stokes

 

Main man: Ben Stokes proudly shows off his SPOTY prize
Main man: Ben Stokes proudly shows off his SPOTY prize

By Jamie Gardner

Ben Stokes truly discovered how special England's dressing-room spirit was when he found himself on the outside looking in.

The 28-year-old capped an amazing tale of redemption by winning the public vote for the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year prize on Sunday after a stunning summer defined by two innings which have earned him English cricketing immortality.

His unbeaten 84 paved the way for a Super Over success in the World Cup final against New Zealand in July and he followed that up just over a month later with arguably the greatest Test innings of all time - a match-winning 135 not out against Australia at Headingley.

It was all a far cry from the winter of 2017, when in the wake of an incident outside a Bristol nightclub Stokes was left out of the touring Ashes squad.

He was ultimately cleared of affray in 2018, and Stokes admits that those difficult times illustrated how strong the support network around him was.

"Sport has an amazing way of picking you back up," he said.

"It's when you're out of the team that you feel it. When you're in the team, you're in the bubble, it's just sort of day by day - training, playing.

"When that gets taken away from you, and you're not around the people that you're generally spending time with, but they have taken time out of their days to keep in contact, ask 'How are you?' and stuff like that, that's when you really know that you're part of something quite special.

"That wasn't just for the first eight to nine weeks, it was until I got back into the team. Even though I wasn't there, I was made to feel like I was."

Stokes returned to the England set-up in August 2018 before going on to light up the summer of 2019.

As run-rates climbed and wickets fell, Stokes seemed to be the only man in England not chewing their fingernails to the quick.

But despite the swashbuckling nature of those era-defining innings, he insisted: "I think people who say they aren't nervous are probably telling a little white lie.

"Nerves get you going, playing so much and at the highest level you're bound to be nervous at some point.

"But once you step out there and once you're in that moment, you're in a place where you're comfortable, you're in a place which you know.

"When you're out there as a batter I just try to envision myself in a bubble, anything outside of that I try not to let it in, I just look at what I've got to do when I've got the bat in hand."

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