Ben Stokes opts out of England's T20 World Cup defence

Hero of 2022 final concentrates on return to full Test fitness in wake of knee surgery

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
Ben Stokes has ruled himself out of the T20 World Cup in June, telling England's management that he does not want to be considered for selection for their title defence in the Caribbean.
Stokes hit the winning run in the 2022 final, grinding out his maiden T20I half-century as England beat Pakistan by five wickets at the MCG. But he has only played two T20 matches since, both at last year's IPL, and said missing the World Cup was "a sacrifice that allows me to be the allrounder I want to be for the foreseeable future".
Having previously retired from ODI cricket in the summer of 2022, Stokes reversed his decision in order to play in the 50-over World Cup late last year. However, that availability required him to delay knee surgery, and he was only able to bowl five overs across England's recent 4-1 Test series defeat to India. He is expecting to play for Durham in the County Championship at some stage in the next few months, after opting out of IPL 2024.
"I'm working hard and focusing on building my bowling fitness back up to fulfil a full role as an allrounder in all formats of cricket," Stokes said in a statement released by the ECB on Tuesday. "Opting out of the IPL and the World Cup will hopefully be a sacrifice that allows me to be the allrounder I want to be for the foreseeable future.
"The recent Test tour of India highlighted how far behind I was from a bowling point of view after my knee surgery and nine months without bowling. I'm looking forward to playing for Durham in the County Championship before the start of our Test summer. I wish Jos [Buttler], Motty [Matthew Mott] and all the team the best of luck in defending our title."
Stokes was reluctant to commit to the T20 World Cup before his surgery but said last month that he expected to be available for the tournament. Mott, England's white-ball coach, confirmed in December that his return would be "a given" if fit, saying: "[Stokes] gives us that ability to have a seam bowler in your top six that gives you so many options with your team balance."
In Stokes' absence, England will consider using Liam Livingstone in the No. 4 spot that he filled during their 3-2 defeat to West Indies in December - though Livingstone limped off with an apparent muscle strain while fielding for Punjab Kings on Sunday, and is waiting on scan results to determine its severity. Jamie Overton, the Surrey allrounder, will also come into contention.
Stokes has only played three T20Is for England outside of World Cups in the last three years and his decision may well have ended a 43-match T20I career which has only rarely seen him at his best. But he could yet come into contention for the 2026 T20 World Cup in India and Sri Lanka, when he will still only be 34 years old.

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98