Former England captain Nasser Hussain believes current Test skipper Ben Stokes is the "final piece of the jigsaw" in the side's plans for the Men's ODI World Cup, to be held later in the year in India.
Stokes had announced his retirement from ODI cricket last year, citing an unsustainable schedule. But with England recently losing the ODI series to South Africa 2-1 and previously being defeated by India and Australia in the format last year, talks of a comeback by Stokes for the ODI World Cup have gathered steam.
"When do you ask him the question? Now? But all he'll say is 'I'm retired'. Ben Stokes at the moment is officially retired. All these bits of the jigsaw have to fit in, he is the final bit because he is that match winner under pressure."
"Look what India have done, India have gone unbeaten at home for about three years now in white-ball cricket, but in tournament play, at just the wrong time in a knockout game, they can't get over the line."
"England when they get to those crucial moments in any format, there is one individual that stands up. He is the final bit of the jigsaw," Hussain was quoted as saying by Sky Sports.
Stokes ended his ODI career at 105 matches, making 2924 runs with a batting average of 39 and a strike rate of 95, including three centuries and 21 half-centuries.
He also picked 74 wickets at an average of 42.39 and an economy rate of 6.05, including being the Player of the Match in the dramatic 2019 ODI World Cup final against New Zealand at Lord's.
This year, Stokes will be turning out for Chennai Super Kings in IPL 2023 and will also lead England in the Ashes at home immediately after the tournament ends.
"I think just after England win the Ashes this summer, I'd be ringing Ben up and saying 'do you fancy making it a World T20 win, an Ashes win and a World Cup win in the space of a year?'."
"When he's absolutely at his highest, loving life and loving the game, 'Ben, do you want to take it one step further?'. We joke but I think deep down he knows he's got that trump card if he needs it," added Hussain.
Last year, questions were raised over Stokes' selection in the T20 World Cup squad despite his not featuring much in the format. But all those doubts were quashed when Stokes stood up to the occasion and took England over the line in a 49-ball unbeaten 52 in the final against Pakistan at MCG.
"Ben is the sort of bloke that will say 'this is unfair', he quite likes fairness and may say 'sorry this is unfair'. I don't think he will because it's a World Cup and also again the reason I ask again is he's got New Zealand, he's got the IPL, he's got the Ashes, so it's just looking after people as well because there are two major things on the horizon."
"McCullum and Stokes will be knocking at (ECB managing director) Rob Key's door saying 'I want all the players fit for the Ashes and I want (Jofra) Archer'; Butler and Mott will be knocking at Key's door saying 'I want all the players fit for the World Cup and I want Archer'.
"And in between, you've got the IPL as well, so it's managing everyone to make sure the captains and the coaches get what they want. It's not an easy thing to do because they're both equally important.
The old days of the Ashes being important and the World Cup being an afterthought are gone, they are both equally important and there are a lot of players involved in both formats," elaborated Hussain.