I was in a real dark place but now I'm buzzing to battle Australia in the Ashes

BEN STOKES COLUMN: The England all-rounder will be going to Australia this winter after being added to the squad now his finger has healed and his mental health is in a better place

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Ben Stokes gets back in the swing of things after Ashes omission

I’m buzzing for the Ashes. Just buzzing.

To be able to confirm to Joe Root that I would be available to join the tour from the start after my second successful surgery on my finger was a great moment.

Rooty’s reaction when I told him was simply: “Oh bloody hell, that’s good.”

He said it was great to hear me sounding so well and that is the truth of it. I feel much better about everything from my finger to my mental well-being. I know I can focus once again on playing my best cricket Down Under this winter.

I probably didn’t realise just how much of an issue the finger was causing me until I got it sorted the second time around.

Ben Stokes has admitted he was in a dark place earlier this year

But I had also been struggling with bubble life and events off the field. I don’t want anyone to feel the way I did, because I wasn’t in a good place and I’m not afraid to admit it.

I was in a real dark place and having some difficult thoughts. I was always one of those people who wouldn’t talk about how they are feeling and just keep it internal and crack on. I now realise talking is such a powerful thing and it has completely changed me.

Talking to my wife, talking to close friends like Rooty, it has really helped as too the professionals I have worked with.

It hasn’t been easy to get to this point but the work that my surgeon Doug Campbell has done, plus my physio in Newcastle, Louise, and the ECB medical staff has all helped get my finger right.

My ligaments and tendons had been glued down from the scar tissue that had grown to help my finger heal from the first surgery. Doug actually illustrated it using the neck tie he was wearing at our consultation.

I was then able to see exactly what he meant during the surgery itself because I was awake and could watch the whole thing which was pretty cool.

He took the screws out and scraped away the scar tissue and my finger was like new again.

Ben Stokes has been battling back from a finger injury but will now be in England Ashes squad

As soon as I could, I was moving it the day after in physio and then I picked up a bat four days later. I couldn’t wait to get into the nets.

Once I was hitting balls without any pain and without thinking about the position my finger was in I thought…I’m back.

Looking back at the summer, playing with a finger that wasn’t getting any better and causing me huge frustration alongside everything else that was going on just added up. It gave me such a lift to be able to hold a bat again properly.

I do realise Australia is one of the toughest places to tour, but also one of the greatest places to tour. It is a special event in cricket and I want to help our team as best I can.

I know what it is going to be like, especially the crowds, I’ve experienced it before and I say bring it on.


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