Joe Root has praised the mental fortitude of Ben Stokes after the all-rounder was named the International Cricket Council’s player of the year for 2019.
Stokes became only the second England player to win the award – the Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy – outright after Jonathan Trott in 2011. Andrew Flintoff shared it with South Africa’s Jacques Kallis in 2005.
The 28-year-old was also named in the ICC’s Test and ODI teams of the year following a 12-month period in which he produced compelling performances during the dramatic World Cup final win against New Zealand at Lord’s in July, and then the Headingley Test, when his unbeaten 135 helped England pull off a barely believable one-wicket victory over Australia.
“I think it’s hard to say any more superlatives,” Root said. “The way he’s performed all year, in all formats, it’s just been fantastic to be part of the same team. In my opinion, he’s definitely the leading player in the world at the moment.”
The England captain pointed to the improvement in Stokes’s attitude since his involvement in the Bristol street brawl of September 2017, an incident that led him to miss the 2017-18 Ashes tour of Australia and forced him to successfully defend a charge of affray in court the following summer.
“I think more than anything it’s his mental approach to the game,” Root said. “I think after he had a time out of the team he’s grown and grown as a senior player, as a mentor to the young guys.
“That’s testament to his character and how much he cares about playing for England and how much he cares about the group. And his desire to want to get better all the time.”
Faf du Plessis was also full of praise for Stokes, who inspired England’s series-levelling victory in Cape Town last week.
“His being named the player of the year was very well deserved,” the South Africa captain said. “He played the big moments really well and I think that’s when you really want to judge cricketers – when it really matters.
“That’s why he’s won so many games for England. Even in this series he’s played such a big role. For us he is a guy we need to try to keep quiet, because he’s the sort of player who takes games away from you.”