Ben Stokes had ‘the makings of genius’ as a teenager reveals coach – and reached it last week – The Sun
WHEN Ben Stokes was a teenager, his county coach said he had “the makings of genius”.
On the fourth day of the Third Ashes Test at Headingley, Geoff Cook saw a genius made.
Stokes, 28, led England to the most unthinkable of victories against Australia on Sunday with an innings which will go down in legend.
The all-rounder’s match-winning unbeaten 135 came after he ate only a “knock-off Nando’s and two bars of Yorkie biscuit and raisin” the night before — and he celebrated with a McDonald’s.
But Cook, who was in charge of Durham when Stokes made his first-team breakthrough, was not at all surprised by his former starlet’s Headingley heroics or, indeed, what fuelled it!
Cook said: “Ben just lives his life. He loves the practice and physical preparation for games, and loves the competitive side of games.
“But in terms of all the modern scientific approach, he’s not a great advocate of that sort of thing! I was at a cricket tournament in Saltburn on Sunday and people kept saying we were down and out. But I said, ‘As long as this guy is there we have a chance’.
“I said that, because I know he is a phenomenal competitor and that was shown on Sunday.
“He just took himself to the brink and he did it for his team.
“In terms of winning a match from a reverse position, it has got to be the best innings of all.
“Are we now seeing a genius? Absolutely. You don’t do things like Ben has done without having some level which is above the norm.
“Allied to his competitive outlook, that is a pretty effective combination.”
Following his Headingley miracle, Stokes – whose rise was helped by wife Clare – yesterday rose to No 2 in the ICC world rankings for all-rounders — behind West Indies skipper Jason Holder.
Nothing the New Zealand-born star has done in the past can compare to Leeds, when he smashed eight sixes and shared an unbeaten last-wicket stand of 76 with Jack Leach, who scored only one.
But Cook witnessed him win matches throughout his county career, including Durham’s 2014 Royal London One-Day Cup final victory over Warwickshire.
Stokes – who watched his Headingley heroics on a tiny TV with his team-mates – was named man of the match that day at Lord’s after he came in at No 7 with his team struggling on 86-5 and then struck an unbeaten 38 to chase down 166 and win by three wickets.
Cook, who played seven Tests for England, added: “When you need a game to be won in a big situation, whether it is with bat or ball, Stokes will always put his hand up and volunteer for that crunch moment.
“Durham won a cup a few years ago and he got 38 not out in a very low-scoring game. He transforms games when his teams are obviously second best.
“He is a phenomenal hitter of the ball and there is no ground big enough if he gets in his stride.
'SPREADS FEAR IN OPPOSITION'
“He’s not 30 years old yet but he’s got a history of doing that and that’s why he spreads fear in the opposition, as well as admiration.”
After moving from his native New Zealand at the age of 12, Stokes played cricket in Cumbria before he was invited to train with the Durham academy.
Cook said: “Durham have got a nice connection with Cumbrian cricket and there are always a lot of youngsters that come over for a little bit of coaching.
“Ben came at the age of 15 and was connected with us after that.
“His school were very good and they gave him time as much as they possibly could because they recognised sport was going to be his vocation.
“His qualities were apparent then. He joined the academy then two years later he was in the first team.
“It was obvious he was going to short-cut things. He didn’t play too much second team and he was quickly into the first team and affecting matches at that level.”
Ex-England and Durham hero Steve Harmison has previously told SunSport how he remembers seeing Stokes in the dressing room “sitting in his manky underpants and picking his nose.”
Another of the county’s former Ashes winners, Graham Onions, said the flame-haired ace was a “little arrogant” and “did some things that were unprofessional” in his early days.
But Cook, who stepped down as Durham’s director of cricket last year, added: “We had quite a successful and settled team at that stage, so one or two were going to have their nose put out by him.
“He had such exceptional ability that he had to get into the first team.
“He still is cheeky — but that’s what makes him.
“He also has a massive streak of normality about him and there is no arrogance.
“He is a generous person with his time. He is just a good lad.
“Durham have done really well in terms of developing players who have been able to make a living out of it.
“Ben is one of a group of young players who have benefited by Durham’s existence and it’s great for the area and great for the club.”
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