Ben Stokes opted out of IPL auction because 'Test cricket is number one priority'

"It wouldn't be fair on any team I signed up for if I wasn't totally focused," Stokes writes in newspaper column

Intense, focused - Ben Stokes warms up, Kings XI Punjab vs Rajasthan Royals, IPL 2020, Abu Dhabi, October 30, 2020

Stokes was the most expensive player in the 2018 auction  •  BCCI

Ben Stokes has revealed that he opted out of this weekend's IPL auction because Test cricket is his "number one priority".
Stokes was the IPL's MVP in 2017 and was the most expensive player at the 2018 auction when Rajasthan Royals bought him for Rs. 12.5 crore (£1.37 million approx.) but has not registered for the 2022 mega-auction.
Stokes' returns for Rajasthan were underwhelming - he made two fifties and took 16 wickets in 31 appearances - but he would likely have been a major draw at the auction due to his skillset as an allrounder and his versatility with the bat. Gautam Gambhir, the mentor of Lucknow Supergiants, has hinted that the franchise might have signed Stokes ahead of Marcus Stoinis had he been available.
Writing in his Daily Mirror column, Stokes said that he had "thought long and hard" about whether or not he should enter the auction but decided that playing two months of early-season County Championship cricket would serve him and England best ahead of their first home Test of the summer against New Zealand on June 2.
Stokes is one of several multi-format England players not involved in the auction, along with Joe Root, Sam Curran and Chris Woakes, though others including Jonny Bairstow, Dawid Malan and Mark Wood will be up for sale in Bengaluru. Any England Test players picked in the IPL are likely to miss the final stages of the season in order to prepare for the first Test.
"It was a bitterly disappointing Ashes campaign Down Under, but we have to learn from it and begin the job of building the team back to where we want to be," Stokes wrote. "It will take time, of course it will. Even the white-ball team took time to get to the point where we could win a World Cup.
"And we need to go on a similar journey with the Test team now, with everyone involved 100 percent committed to doing what is necessary to improve and be among the best teams again.
"That is my approach to it. Test cricket is absolutely my number one priority, and I want to work alongside Joe Root, the best man we could have as captain, to get us there.
"It is why I thought long and hard about whether to go to the IPL or not, and felt that this was not about the money but about where my priorities are. It wouldn't be fair on any team I signed up for if I wasn't totally focused on things out there.
"The Test team is where it is at for me right now and I want to give as much of my time and energy to that as possible. I think the Test side will benefit more from me playing a number of County Championship matches this summer and getting myself as best prepared as possible for the challenges of New Zealand and South Africa."
Stokes added that Paul Collingwood, his former Durham team-mate, is "the ideal man" to take over as interim head coach, after his appointment for March's tour to the Caribbean was confirmed on Monday.
"Having Colly as the interim head coach for the start of this challenge is a huge bonus for us because he offers so much and already has good relationships to work from," he wrote.
"He has an infectious enthusiasm and passion for the game, and because he has been there and understands what we are going through, he translates it brilliantly to the players.
"Don't think he is a soft touch, though. He is one of the toughest men I know and will demand the same level of hard work from us as he always puts in himself."