The Reason Behind Ben Stokes’ Retirement Nobody Is Talking About

In the shadow of new competitions and a saturated international calendar, one question is being asked more than any other: How much cricket is too much cricket? 

As the dust settles on Ben Stokes’ ODI retirement, a moment which we may look back on as a watershed moment in recognising how much is too much,  it’s become clear that we’re asking ourselves the wrong question.

The cricketing community doesn’t need to consider if there is too much cricket, and play less. It needs to reflect on why there’s too much cricket.

Lessons Learnt?

This is by no means a new phenomenon.

How often has the marginalisation of the 4-day game due to white-ball cricket been discussed?

Indeed, players prioritising certain formats for the sake of fitness has been happening for years - James Anderson and Stuart Broad committed themselves red-ball cricket years ago.

But it has reached a point where this is no longer an active choice,  as was the case with Broad and Anderson. 

Instead, the agency is being removed from players, with the current schedule compelling them to sacrifice representing their country - sacrifice playing the sport they love - for the sake of their mental and physical health.

Economics vs Welfare

This discourse around this problem is currently rooted in player welfare: If we’re going to play this much cricket, how do we make sure our players stay healthy?

A valid concern. With the current trajectory of more and more cricket - there may well be more to watch, but it will be of a lower quality, and missing the real superstars of the game that get bums on seats.

Instead, I suggest we need to consider the root cause of this debacle - only then can welfare of all players be prioritised in any meaningful way.

Ben Stokes retiring, at its core, is a symptom of the financial landscape of the modern game.

More cricket for financial success is one thing - and without sound finances the game can't function on any level.

But this is no longer just ‘more cricket’ - international cricket boards’ attempts to grow the game are resulting in the opposite. 

Much as in any business, and much to the discontent of the shareholders, growth cannot continue indefinitely.

Cricket here is no exception. If more cricket remains the primary means to fill the coffers, I fear that Ben Stokes may not be the last to retire from certain formats.

Ask yourself this…

Perhaps the cricketing community needs to do more with what is currently in place; maximise pre-existing cricket than dilute it with more.

Perhaps the fat cats need to be content with a 6-week tournament that earns them a few billion dollars, rather keep coming back for more.

I’m not sure where cricket will go from here - but I fear the worst.

But regardless, next time you’re frustrated to see a star player retire - or take a break for their physical and mental health - remember one thing:

Don’t ask yourself  if they are playing too much cricket. Ask yourself why they are playing that much cricket.


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