Ben Stokes described himself as the “boy in the bubble” as the BBC Sports Personality of the Year thanked his teammates and the sport of cricket for helping him through his trial for affray and into a summer of sporting glory.
English cricket achieved standout success at Sunday night’s ceremony in Aberdeen, taking the team of the year as well as Stokes’s individual award, and winning the moment of the year for the winning run-out against New Zealand in the World Cup final. The challenge now is to capitalise on it.
“That moment at Lords when we won the World Cup was a childhood dream,” Stokes said. “Talking about the years before that you look at it and sport has an amazing way of picking you back up. You’ve got so many people around you who are able to help you – family, teammates, everybody involved in cricket is a part of that.
“When you’re out there as a batsman, I just try to envisage myself as a boy in a bubble. Anything outside of that, I’ll try not to let it in. I just look at what I’ve got to do with the bat in hand.”
Stokes was dropped by England in 2017 after being involved in a brawl outside a Bristol nightclub that led him to stand trial on charges of affray. He was recalled for the 2018 winter tour of New Zealand and was found not guilty at Bristol crown court the following summer.
“When you’re not in [the team] that gets taken away from you,” Stokes said. “If [your teammates] are taking time out of their days to keep in contact and see how you are, that’s when you really know you’re part of something quite special. That wasn’t just for the first days and weeks that was completely until I got back in the team. Even though I wasn’t there I was made to feel like I was.”
For Eoin Morgan there was no surprise Stokes won the award after his performance not only in the World Cup but during the unforgettable third Ashes Test at Headingley. The collective awards, however, were a pleasant surprise for the one-day captain.
“There was probably an expectation between us [of Ben] winning the big award,” Morgan said. “But to scoop the other two on top of it in what was a big year for sport … It’s fantastic to see that cricket is at the forefront of everybody’s mind. It was incredible to be part of, we travelled up and down the country witnessing it first hand, just the incredible caring nature and the feelgood factor around the sport. For me that means a huge amount.”
Asked how cricket can build on this success, Morgan said: “I think you try to take advantage of the platform that the success has brought. Using the opportunities to grow the game and get it to the most important people, which is young kids up and down the country. We want to be in schools getting a bat and ball in their hand and I think The Hundred couldn’t come at a better time.”