New Delhi: The advent of multiple T20 leagues might have led to a paradigm shift in priorities for some leading international cricketers but England Test captain Ben Stokes is very categorical that his participation in the 2023 IPL will depend on the national team's calender.
Stokes, one of the world's leading all-rounders, has already called it quits in 50-over format, in order to strike a better work-life balance and nothing is more important for him than wearing the pristine whites.
"It is a case of looking at schedules, looking ahead at what we have got coming up. But as I have made it very clear, Test cricket is at the forefront of my mind and all of my time decisions will be based around Test matches.
"Now being the captain, I have the responsibility to do that," Stokes told PTI during a virtual interaction organized by 'Amazon Prime Video' on the occasion of the release of his documentary series 'Ben Stokes: Phoenix from the Ashes'.
For the 31-year-old, who has scored 5320 runs and taken close to 200 wickets (185) in 84 Tests, IPL is an "amazing tournament" but he will only play if his jam-packed schedule allows him to.
"I've played in the IPL for four years. I've loved it every time I've been there. It's an amazing competition to be part of, not just for the spectacle of the IPL but the opportunity to work along with the best players in the world, and some of the best coaches.
"It is just an amazing experience to be involved in but as I said, there is a schedule to be looked at around the window of the IPL," Stokes, who had once got more than USD 2 million bid from Rajasthan Royals, added.
He then explained the reason why it always becomes difficult for England players to feature in the IPL.
"As England cricketers, our schedule is jam-packed and we seem to be playing all year around. I think our summer is everybody's winter and when our winter comes along, it is everybody's summer. So, people are either coming here to play or we are touring to play cricket."
May be we can think of 40 over ODIs
With Cricket South Africa's new T20 league and UAE's ILT20 starting next year, the international bilateral calender is increasingly getting choc-a-bloc with the relevance of ODIs being questioned.
A case in point has to be Stokes' decision to quit the format in which he played 105 games with nearly 3000 runs and 74 wickets, including a top-score in 2019 World Cup final at Lord's.
"It is a great question at the moment with how much cricket is being played around the world," he answered another PTI query.
"The last thing anybody wants is a format, I don't know, be taken away from people. Maybe there is a way, ICC can look at. Maybe restructuring the schedule or redoing the format." Just like 'The Hundred' exists alongside T20, Stokes suggested trying out 40-over one dayers, something that was prevalent in English county circuit with a tournament called pro-40, which was played till some years back.
"You look at England now with 'The Hundred', they are making a completely new format but that still goes alongside the T20 version. Something can be looked at. It is my own personal view that they could look at maybe turning 50 overs into 40 overs.
"When I first started playing professional cricket, there was CB40 and that was a really good format to play. Nowadays, it would just be an extended version of T20 cricket and I personally think you would end up seeing the same scores, anyway in 40 overs that you do in 50 overs." He feels 40-overs-a-side could be solution.
"Because there is so much cricket, is there a way that schedule and formats can be looked at to still keep the 3 formats, but maybe less cricket? If you look at 40 overs than 50 overs, I think that can be a solution." He wants the custodians of the game to put some thought on it.
"I think there needs to be a lot of thought put into it but the last thing you want I think for the sport, is that a certain format is completely chucked away."
Decision to retire from ODIs
The decision to quit ODIs was a "tough one" for Stokes but his gut feeling told him that he needed to take that call in order to prolong his career.
"It is a pretty tough decision but at the same time, it was made easy for me. I always had it at the back of my mind that I would have to walk away from one of the white-ball formats.
"I just did not know which one, and I wasn't going to make a decision until I was clear in my mind which one it was." The inner call came during the India ODI series and the decision was a quick one.
"You hear people say who have retired from many things, they say 'when you know, you know'. So it was after the first ODI against India at the Oval, when I finished that game it was my moment of 'when you know, you know'.
"(It) Almost hit me in the face, just like that. As hard it was to know that I won't be playing this format anymore, it was also a decision that was made easy because of how quickly it hit me."
Docu-series to focus on mental health
Stokes has had an eventful life with his share of controversies and some amazing highs in his illustrious career so far.
However, there was a point in his life, when he felt low and understood he needed to focus on his mental health rather than living out of suitcases which was exhausting him.
So, was it hard making a documentary on himself where he had to speak on things which are deeply personal? "When people say how hard it was? No, it was not because when I decided, that is something I want to do, in terms of making a documentary. I specifically said that I don't want this documentary to be all about making myself look good.
"It is an opportunity for me to just show the people who I am. I think very rarely, sportsmen are able to do that," Stokes said.
At times sportspersons are those alpha-males, who seem infallible and Stokes wouldn't mind his viewers to get more up close and personal look in this docu-series.
"Sportsmen are painted a picture of what people see of them on the TV, whether they are playing or in media. It's very rare that you get to see them in their own space, where they are comfortable in the environment." Stokes was clear with the makers that he wanted all aspects of his life covered.
"I have had so many things happening to me in my career, not just cricket, but personal life as well.
"It has been such a public thing, right from T20 World Cup 2016 to the Bristol incident to the break I took because of my mental health. If I did not cover that, then I thought I wouldn't be doing any justice."