He has duly been named in a 15-man squad that Luke Wright, England’s National Selector, confirmed is the line-up that they intend on taking to India in October, where their campaign will get underway against the same opponents, New Zealand, in a rematch of their epic final at Lord’s in July 2019.
“It wasn’t really a case of changing his mind,” Wright said. “He was always interested in coming back. It wasn’t a case of needing to beg him or anything like that, he was always keen. Once his body was in a good place and he’d had a rest, he was really keen to play. We’re delighted from our point of view and I’m sure England fans and everyone can be absolutely delighted.”
Stokes will, however, feature as a specialist batter given the chronic knee injury that hampered his allround role during the Ashes. In the wake of England’s 2-2 draw in the Ashes last month, he had hinted at the prospect of knee surgery ahead of England’s Test tour of India in the new year, but that prospect would appear to be off the table for now.
“It’s not a simple one, is it?” Wright added. “He’s coming to the World Cup and we’re going to pick him as a batter. We’re always assessing that as it goes, but we won’t be pushing him to bowl unless he’s absolutely fit and raring to go. There’s still going to be a period for him to try and get this knee right but it’s obviously not an easy one.
“You know Stokesy, if ever there’s someone for the big moments it’s Ben Stokes. I think that’s what it is – it’s probably for him thinking it’s a last chance in the 50 overs to go and win it again. Who better for England to have someone like him come back for us? He loves the big moments. We’re all just so happy he’s back in the squad, I know it will give a big lift to the boys in that squad to have him back and we all can’t wait to have him back and hopefully involved in lifting a trophy again for England.”
“First and foremost, Gus deserves to be in there,” Wright said. “I’m sure everyone’s been watching him, he’s hugely exciting and he’s been outstanding, not just in the Hundred but also how he’s gone in the Blast. He roughed me up on a few occasions when I was still playing and marked my card. He’s a real asset for us and we’re delighted to give him an opportunity.”
Although Wright confirmed that Archer is expected to travel with the World Cup squad as a reserve, he acknowledged that there had to be a “duty of care” in managing his return for a long-term elbow injury, not to mention the back stress fracture that ruled him out of the 2022 season.
“Regarding the World Cup, unfortunately we’re just running out of time,” Wright said. “He’s not going to come round quite quickly enough especially for the first part of the World Cup. There is a duty of care with him, we have to make sure that long-term we get it right, because we see him as a huge asset for a long time. As much as the temptation is to try and rush him in and get him in for the start of this World Cup, unfortunately we’re just going to run out of time.”
“It’s as hard a decision as you’re ever going to get,” Wright said. “No doubting he’s someone we couldn’t think any more highly of. There’s no denying what a superstar he is, and what a huge future he’s got with us going forward in all forms. That’s the incredibly tough decision we’ve had to make. I’m sure he’s disappointed, but unfortunately in a 15-man squad someone’s going to have to miss out. On this occasion it’s been him, but it didn’t make it any easier.”
Brook will be joined in that party by a number of other players who could be travelling reserves at the World Cup, most particularly Ben Duckett and Will Jacks, who is currently behind both Moeen Ali and Liam Livingstone in the spin-bowling allrounder stakes.
Wright added: “We have been able to name two extremely strong squads that underline the depth of talent we enjoy in white-ball cricket. Any series against New Zealand is closely fought and will provide us with an ideal opportunity to test ourselves against one of the best teams in the world.”
England ODI squad Jos Buttler (capt), Moeen Ali, Gus Atkinson, Jonny Bairstow, Sam Curran, Liam Livingstone, Dawid Malan, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, Reece Topley, David Willey, Mark Wood, Chris Woakes
England T20I squad Jos Buttler (capt), Rehan Ahmed, Moeen Ali, Gus Atkinson, Jonny Bairstow, Harry Brook, Sam Curran, Ben Duckett, Will Jacks, Liam Livingstone, Dawid Malan, Adil Rashid, Josh Tongue, John Turner, Luke Wood
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket