England Test captain Ben Stokes yesterday had surgery on a long term knee injury that has seen the all-rounder struggle at the crease.
Stokes went under the knife at the Cromwell Hospital on Wednesday, setting himself the target of returning to the Test fold in time for England’s tour to India.
He confirmed last week that he would not feature in India’s T20 league the IPL this year to focus on his recovery and manage his workload.
But what are the landmarks the star playmaker must meet if he is to return to cricket this year?
Well to be back on the pitch for England’s opening Test on the subcontinent in Hyderabad, Stokes has 56 days.
Given any knee operation requires specialist recovery, this would be some feat for the 32-year-old.
That five-Test series – which sees England play their hosts in Visakhapatnam, Rajkot, Ranchi, and Dharamsala as well as their opener – concludes on 7 March, meaning Stokes has 98 days to be involved in an Indian Test return, though it’s unlikely head coach Brendon McCullum will risk his captain if the series were decided at that point.
The domestic County Championship season gets underway in April and England’s first home series, against Pakistan, a month later.
Stokes should be up and running by then but if he is not then it will be touch and go ahead of England’s next major competition.
The firebrand hitter then has 187 days until England’s T20 World Cup opener in either the United States or Caribbean, though the squad will be announced prior to travelling.
England are reigning World Cup champions in the shortest international format and will want to avoid a repeat of the ODI World Cup in India this year, where they went is as defending champions before failing to perform and make the knockouts.
Stokes will be a key piece of that squad puzzle if he is fit, but as stated that will see him need to recover from knee surgery within six months.
All is not lost for the England and Wales Cricket Board, though, if Stokes is forced to miss the Stateside World Cup, because they can market his return to their favourite child competition The Hundred.
The shortened format of cricket returns this summer and sees a number of international stars from across the globe compete in a Bazball on fire version of the game.
So there you have it. Stokes will likely return sooner than later given his confidence following surgery, but it is yet another big year for English cricket and he’ll be determined to leave his mark on the game like he’s managed to do in every year recently.