Ben Stokes Irked By ‘Ruthlessness’ Question, Delivers Stinging Reply Post Loss

England captain Ben Stokes on Monday dismissed suggestions that his team lacked ruthlessness in their approach against India as they suffered their first Test series defeat in ‘Bazball’ era on Monday. India beat England by five wickets in the fourth and penultimate Test to take an unassailable 3-1 lead in the five-match series. The home team’s victory marked a stunning downfall for England’s ultra-aggressive ‘Bazball’ approach, which has been their much-hyped winning mantra since 2022 and is now facing all-round criticism for being too rigid and lacking in depth. Asked if England lacked ruthlessness against India, Stokes replied: “Ruthlessness? What is it? How does it show itself?

“Everyone goes into the game with their best intentions; when it doesn’t pay off, people say we’re not ruthless, when it does, they say we are,” Stokes said in the post-match media conference.

Stokes emphasised that the perception of ruthlessness can be subjective and often misunderstood.

“I don’t really understand it. That’s from my point of view; we try to do what we think is the best way to win a game. It can be a throwaway comment when people say we’re not ruthless enough. What does it mean?” he questioned.

After Stokes took over from Joe Root as captain, England’s ‘Bazball’ approach has given them wins against New Zealand, South Africa and Pakistan.

In the last year’s Ashes too, England fought back to draw the series 2-2.

“Obviously we want to win every game we play, and win every series. This is the first we have lost, but we will be involved in plenty more series going forward,” Stokes said.

“It’s always disappointing being on the losing team. Looking back at when we had our chance to bat yesterday, cricket is always skill against skill.”

Credit to Indian spinners

The England skipper credited the Indian spin troika of Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav to turn it around by sharing all the 10 wickets among them in the visitors’ second innings.

“Ashwin, Jadeja and Kuldeep and the conditions we found ourselves in against them was very, very challenging,” Stokes said.

“When India have a sniff in conditions like that, any team is going to find it hard to not only keep the scoreboard ticking but rotate the strike.

“You’ve got to give them a lot of credit for the way in which they bowled in very favourable conditions. On this occasion, their skill was better than ours yesterday.” Stokes was also pleased with his side’s young spin duo Tom Hartley and Shoaib Bashir who bagged a maiden fifer and returned with a match haul of eight wickets.

“They’ll be able to leave at the end of this tour with their heads held very high. For us as an England team going forward, we’ve got more exciting talent which is a great thing for English cricket.”

‘Can’t complain on pitch’

England were taken aback after seeing the wide cracks on the pitch ahead of the match here, but Stokes said he has no complaints about the Ranchi pitch. In fact, he admitted that all the four Test pitches so far were “really good”.

“I had no idea what it was going to do and I was very surprised how it kept together. The temperatures of the day made it behave differently but I think all four have been really good Test match pitches,” he said.

“We’ve seen on many occasions when it’s hard to get them out, but there will be periods when spin is a threat. They’re the conditions you expect in India. No complaints, just very good wickets and four games, four results, so can’t complain,” Stokes said.

‘James Anderson has muscle stiffness but fine’

Senior pacer James Anderson was not seen on the field on Monday after bowling three overs in the morning session. But Stokes said he’s fine and he just developed tightness in quadriceps muscle.

“Jimmy’s fine. He just had a little bit of tight quad and there was no chance he was going to bowl at all in the game.

“You look at risk versus reward, there’s not too much reward from Jimmy being out in the field if he’s got a pretty tight quad after playing three back-to-back Test matches in India.”

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