Head coach Andrew McDonald said Rajasthan Royals (RR) are unsure of all-rounder Ben Stokes’ availability at this stage and can only make a decision in this regard once there is greater clarity on the matter.
Stokes, one of Royals’ first-choice overseas players from England, has been in New Zealand since leaving the national squad in the middle of the international summer to be with his ailing father, who has been diagnosed with brain cancer.
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The situation has certainly raised doubts whether the 29-year-old will be seen playing for Royals in the 13th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) in UAE, starting September 19.
“First and foremost, thoughts with the Stokes family. It’s a difficult scenario, so we’re giving him as much time as he needs, and connecting with him as best we can,” McDonald was quoted as saying by ESPNcricinfo.
“So yeah, we’re not sure where Stokesy’s at right now, but once it has played out, then we can make our decisions from there. But I don’t want to second-guess what will happen with him just yet.”
McDonald also talked about Royals captain Steve Smith, who has had to sit out the first two ODIs of the series in the UK due to concussion scare.
“Steve Smith is a bit more clear-cut, I think. He needs a little bit of time, it was a short turnaround between game one and two where the concussion happened, so I’d imagine there were some lingering side effects,” he said.
“They’ll be erring on the side of caution, so hopefully (they will) see him out there again on Wednesday (for the third ODI against England in Manchester).”
Appointed coach after a disappointing last season by the inaugural champions, McDonald is feeling optimistic of his team’s chances because of the presence of some promising young talent to go with the experience of the Indian and overseas internationals.
“We’ve added some depth in terms of our left-hand batting, in particular in (Anuj) Rawat and (Yashashvi) Jaiswal among the home-grown players, so we think we’ve got some options there,” said the former Australia Test cricketer. “The way we set up at the auction, we feel we can structure our side up to three or four different ways.”
The inclusion of South Africa’s explosive left-hand batsman David Miller is also inspiring confidence in McDonald.
“He’s got great flexibility. He was at Kings XI (Punjab) for a long time, so I’m hoping that change of environment sparks his best form. He’s really fitted into our environment well,” he said.
“He was the first overseas player to land, which is great because usually you don’t get access to the overseas guys until 10 days out or sometimes less.”
“He’s been nothing but fantastic so far for the group, helping our young left-handers in particular, and just creating energy around the group. And his fielding is second to none.”