By Niharika Raina
London, Aug 23 (SocialNews.XYZ) Hours after England Test captain Ben Stokes announced that he would be retiring from ODIs after the first match against South Africa at his home ground in Durham, talismanic India batter Virat Kohli was quick to comment on Instagram: "You're the most competitive bloke I've ever played against. Respect," read Kohli's comment on Stokes' ODI retirement.
Over the years, Kohli and Stokes have had their share of run-ins, heated verbal exchanges as well as send offs given on the field whenever the duo were dismissed in their respective innings. It leaves viewers of the game wondering, what is Stokes' equation with Kohli in the cricketing circuit?
"To be honest, we don't come across each other that much outside of cricket. We play international cricket against each other and IPL cricket. But the time we've spent together has been very small. It's fine as when we are around the field, it's me against the opposition or me against any individual.
"You got to separate the two; on-the-field competition and off-the-field too, like it's not a case of we are little children and have a bit of a go at each other on the field. As soon as we are off the field, it's just back to two individuals who are in the same room together and that's fine," said Stokes in a select virtual media interaction ahead of the release of his documentary 'Ben Stokes: Phoenix from the Ashes'.
Stokes cited the example of the rivalry between Serbian tennis ace Novak Djokovic and Australia's Nick Kyrgios to describe his equation with Kohli.
"Look, sport is an amazing contest, not only between teams, but also have the battles and contests between individuals. But at the end of the day, it is always that respect between oppositions, individuals."
"It's not just in our sport, as an example you can look at Djokovic and Kyrgios. They obviously had a huge rivalry, but still at the end of the day, there's always that respect between professional athletes. That's the same throughout all sports. You are always going to have a battle and trying your hardest to win the game. But when it comes to the end of it, there's always that respect and what's great about sports is that sportsmen respects sportsmen."
One of the striking aspects of England's Test cricket in 2022 has been the way England has re-written the script of playing the longest format of the game since the time Stokes and Brendon McCullum became captain and head coach respectively. So, what has worked for them, which resulted in England chasing 277, 299, 296 and 378 in four consecutive Tests before the series against South Africa began?
"It's been fantastic. One of my and Baz's (McCullum) next jobs is to try and get 'Bazball' not be said as what our cricket is. Because whoever came up with that, it's time for it not to be said as whoever did it, me and Brendon didn't like it. It's been an incredible start. With me and Baz, we won our first four games working together.
"But the most pleasing thing for me is that with the way we have gone about our cricket, the mindset and the way we want to play our cricket, we could have lost all four of those games. But if we hadn't lost all four of those games, we would have been still positively thinking about the way we play because people have turned up to watch us play.
"The people who have been watching us on TV would have enjoyed every single day of the Test match. That's something I have tried to bring in: take away the pressures of international cricket. They come with their own pressures regarding form. But sometimes when you look too much at that, you forget that we are sort of in the entertainment business. People come to watch us play because we are at the top level of our sport and sport is entertainment.
"So, go out there and entertain people for five days in a row for every session you have in the day. If we play well, we give ourselves a great chance of winning and if we play poorly, we are probably going to lose. It's pretty simple, but just go there, enjoy and have fun.
"The fact that you get to represent your country in some of the best grounds in the world in front of packed houses and millions of people on TV. Just try to take away the pressure from what international sport can give and have fun doing it," concluded Stokes.
Ben Stokes: Phoenix from the Ashes launches on Prime Video on Friday, August 26