Bengaluru, May 31: When England all-rounder Ben Stokes was ignored for the World Cup in 2015, former Three Lions captain Paul Collingwood had said that his omission made the national selectors look "ridiculous" and that "he could've won" England the title.
On May 30, 2019, the 27-year-old gave enough hint that Collingwood's prediction could come true, even if four years late.
Stokes did nothing wrong in the opening game against South Africa at the Oval. First, he led the batting with an 89 off 79 balls to push the team's total beyond 300 and then took two catches - including one that can easily qualify as one of the best in the game's history.
He flew in the air to catch a certain six from Andile Phehlukwayo in deep mid-wicket but said later that it was not his best catch! And then, he also took two wickets for just 12 runs in less than three overs as the sixth bowler. England thumped South Africa by 104 runs and Stokes was the man of the match.
The explosive all-rounder said it is always an advantage to be an all-rounder for he can contribute for the full 100 overs. This World Cup features some high-quality all-rounders like India's Hardik Pandya, West Indian Andre Russell, Bangladesh's Shakib Al Hasan besides Stokes himself and it could be a fierce race for supremacy this English summer.
Coming back to Stokes, he was in the news even a year ago, but for all wrong reasons. A bitter brawl in a bar in Bristol in September, 2017, saw his promising career getting stalled for 15 months. The man had to appear before the court in between an important Test series against India last year. Before that, he also missed the Ashes of 2017-18 on disciplinary grounds. But he deserves a pat on his back for not losing the focus in the run-up to the World Cup which he knows provides him a massive opportunity to undo his past. The Oval might have seen just the beginning on Thursday.
Last month, while playing for Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League, Stokes had remarked that the Bristol episode could have been the best thing to have happened to him for it has changed his lifestyle.
"I don't want to be remembered as the guy who had a fight in the street. I want to do things on the field to be remembered for. If we win the World Cup, that becomes the first paragraph... doesn't it?" he was quoted as saying on that occasion.
With over 5,000 runs and 200 wickets under his belt, the New Zealand-born Stokes has all the potential to become one of the world-beating all-rounders in the game. If he can succeed in winning the World Cup for England, the man will certainly cement his place alongside the likes of Ian Botham who though could never win it for his country.