England Should follow Rajasthan's template of using Ben Stokes as an opener
Rajasthan's think tank made a bold move to promote English all-rounder Ben Stokes to the top of the order in the recently concluded Indian T20 League season and their decision paid off, as Stokes went on to amass 285 runs in just eight innings, at an excellent average and strike-rate of 40.71 and 142.50 respectively. These runs included a match-winning century as well and the numbers tell us about the kind of impact he made from the top of the order.
With the T20 World Cup scheduled to be played next year, this is a switch England could consider making to get more out of their star all-rounder's batting ability.
Stokes has batted at number 3 or lower in all of his 24 T20I innings for England and his numbers in those outings don't make for a good reading as he has only 342 runs to his name at an average of 19.00. His overall strike-rate of 134.64 isn't that impressive either and he hasn't gone past the fifty-run mark in any of his outings as well.
Even his overall T20 numbers show that he is a much better top-order batsman than at any other position.
|Ben Stokes' batting numbers as opener and at other positions in T20s|
|No.3 or lower||2179||24.21||135.17|
The numbers mentioned above clearly prove that he hasn't been as effective a middle-order batsman in T20s as he has been for England in the other two formats. But Rajasthan have already shown them the way now and England just need to follow it now.
Yes, they do have a problem of plenty at the top of the order. They already have players like Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Jason Roy, Dawid Malan and Tom Banton fighting for a slot at the top of the order. They even have Alex Hales who is out of favour from the England skipper, Eoin Morgan, now. However, England could benefit more from using Stokes at the top of the order as the role gets more out of his batting.
Stokes adds a lot of balance to the English side owing to his all-round ability. If his batting in the middle-order isn't good enough, that's a wasted resource there. A player like Jos Buttler has already shown that he can be an equally effective player in the middle-order as he is as an opener. So, switching Stokes' position with that of Buttler at the top will only enhance the balance of their batting unit.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Rodger Bosch