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Ben Stokes has been ruled out of the remainder of the Rajasthan Royals' campaign in IPL 2021 with a broken finger in his left hand. The allrounder sustained the injury during the Royals' opening game, against the Punjab Kings, when he ran in from long-on and dived forward to take Chris Gayle's catch in the tenth over of the Kings' innings.
The Royals said in a statement on Tuesday that after Stokes picked up the injury, "subsequent investigations revealed that he sustained a broken finger, which will unfortunately rule him out of the remainder of the Indian Premier League 2021 season". Stokes will continue to stay on with the Royals to provide "support and inputs off the field", while the Royals cast around for a potential replacement signing.
"Everyone at Rajasthan Royals absolutely admires Ben for being such a huge asset and a valuable member of the Royals family, both on and off the field, and wishes him a speedy recovery," the Royals statement said. "We are delighted that Ben would like to stay with the group to provide his valued support and inputs off the field. In the meantime, we will be reviewing potential replacement options for the remainder of the season."
ESPNcricinfo understands that Stokes is being assessed by the team's medical staff, with the ECB in the loop on the developments. "We are aware and he will be assessed over the coming days on the extent of the seriousness of the injury. At that point we will confirm the next steps," an ECB spokesperson said.
In the match against the Kings, Stokes had bowled the eighth over, but didn't come on to bowl any more even though the Kings scored 221 for 6. He subsequently came out to open the innings for the Royals, but lasted only three balls before top-edging a pull back to the bowler Mohammed Shami to be out for a duck. The Royals lost the match by four runs.
Stokes' injury could disrupt the Royals' plans significantly, especially because they are already without a first-choice player in Jofra Archer, who is recuperating and is expected to miss at least the first four games of the season. While Archer was cleared to return to training on Tuesday, it is still not clear when he will be able to resume playing.
Without either Stokes or Archer, the overseas options for the Royals are limited. Both Jos Buttler and Chris Morris are first-choice picks, and for the other two slots, they have to choose from among Liam Livingstone, David Miller, Mustafizur Rahman and Andrew Tye. Rahman played in the first match and Livingstone - who can bat in the top order and turn his arm over for part-time offspin - could be the most likely to fill in for Stokes.
The injury also puts a question mark over Stokes' commitments for England. They are scheduled to play a two-Test series against New Zealand, starting at Lord's on June 2, just four days after the IPL final, which is on May 30. Following the New Zealand Tests, England are due to play a five-Test series against India, after which is the T20 World Cup in India, followed by the Ashes in Australia.