Ben Stokes

Cricket World Cup 2023: Ben Stokes a doubt for England’s opener against New Zealand

Ben StokesStokes averages 40.50 in 108 one-day internationalsICC Men’s Cricket World CupHosts: India Dates: 5 October-19 NovemberCoverage: Ball-by-ball commentary on BBC Radio 5 Sports Extra and BBC Sounds. The BBC Sport website and app will also host commentary, live text updates and in-play video clips (UK only).

Ben Stokes is a doubt for England’s World Cup opener against New Zealand on Thursday because of a hip issue.

Captain Jos Buttler played down the new issue on Wednesday but England are unlikely to take a risk on Stokes at the start of a seven-week tournament.

England’s Test captain, 32, came out of retirement for the defence of their 50-over world title despite his long-running knee injury .

“It’s not the time to take big risks on someone,” said Buttler.

“Nearer the end, maybe you do take more of a risk with people’s injuries but it’s going to be a long tournament.”

If Stokes is not fit, batter Harry Brook, who was only called up as a late change for Jason Roy, is the obvious replacement.

England train at the cavernous 130,000-seater Narendra Modi Stadium later on Wednesday – the venue of the tournament curtain-raiser a day later.

Stokes has not played since hitting an England-record 182 in the third one-day international against New Zealand on 13 September, having sat out Monday’s warm-up game against Bangladesh.

“He’s got a slight niggle with his hip,” said Buttler.

“But fingers crossed that it’ll be good news for us. We’ll see.

“He’s working hard with the physios and we’ll know more when the guys arrive for training.

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“We’ll make the right call. If he’s not fit to play, he’s not fit to play. If he is, we can make that decision.”

Stokes’ knee troubles already mean he is in India purely as a batter, rather than playing his full role as an all-rounder.

The tournament begins with a 10-team round-robin stage, with the top four qualifying for the semi-finals, giving England time to be cautious with Stokes.

He famously was player-of-the-match in the 2019 final as England beat New Zealand to win the 50-over World Cup for the first time.

Buttler said that remarkable victory – via boundary countback after a tied regular match and super over – will have no bearing on Thursday’s meeting.

“Four years ago is a long time,” he said.

“We have had fantastic games against them all of the time in ICC and bilateral series. They are an excellent team. We expect a tough match.”

England completed a 3-1 ODI series win over New Zealand less than three weeks ago but in entirely different conditions, with temperatures forecast to reach 35 degrees on Thursday.

New Zealand have their own injury issues.

Captain Kane Williamson is not yet fit after rupturing knee ligaments in March and bowler Tim Southee is sidelined after surgery on a dislocated thumb.

But they have a superb record in recent tournaments, having also reached the 2015 50-over World Cup final, plus two semi-finals and a final in the past three T20 World Cups.

Buttler not keen on ‘defending champions’ tag

England went into the 2019 event on home soil having never won a men’s 50-over World Cup.

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Now they return as one of the favourites following the transformation started by former captain Eoin Morgan and carried on by Buttler.

Last autumn England won the T20 crown to become double world champions and are now looking to become the first side to defend the 50-over title since Australia in 2007.

“It is obviously a good place to be having had the success of winning the 2019 one,” Buttler told BBC Sport.

“I have said lots of times I don’t see us as defending champions now.

“We are at the start of a new World Cup and it is about going out there and creating new memories and trying to win it again.

“I probably don’t like the word defend either. I want us to attack as a side and attack this World Cup.”