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Andrew Flintoff has heaped praise on England all-rounder Ben Stokes, saying that he “would’ve loved to have been as good” as the 26-year-old.
Stokes has been described as Flintoff’s “heir apparent” as he has rapidly become one of the best and most exciting players in international cricket.
In February, Stokes made history by becoming the most expensive overseas signing at the Indian Premier League (IPL) auction when the Rising Pune Supergiants paid a whopping INR 14.5 crores for his services.
In his maiden IPL season, Stokes didn’t disappoint as he scored 316 runs in 12 matches, which included a superb hundred and a fifty, at an average of 31.60. He also took 12 wickets at an average of 26.33.
Stokes continued to shine in the ODI series against South Africa in May as he mustered 126 runs in two matches, which included a century, at an average of 63.
Stokes also struck a century in the Champions Trophy, where he finished with 184 runs in four matches at an average of 92. He also claimed three wickets.
“He’s brilliant, isn’t he? I don’t know about the ‘heir apparent’. He wants to set his own standards higher. I would’ve loved to have been as good as Ben Stokes,” Flintoff told Sky Sports. “You watch him play, and something is happening every time he has the bat in his hands, and also with the ball. He’s a proper cricketer! He could bat at No 3. He takes it on, but his technique is so good.
“His bowling is improving all the time. The most impressive thing is that he just takes everything in his stride. He goes to the IPL, gets paid an absolute fortune… which is great… I’m sure he’s got a new car!
“But that comes with certain pressures. It’s the pressure of expectation. Everybody is looking at him to do something, and he just never lets you down.”
England will now take on the Proteas in a four-Test series, and Flintoff conceded that the hosts look extremely menacing as they are stocked to the brim with talent in all departments.
“I just look at this England side. And this is not a slight on South Africa, for they have some quality too, but England are just so good,” Flintoff added. “Jimmy (Anderson), that’s our best bowler ever! You’ve got Alastair Cook, that’s our best batsman ever! Joe Root himself. Jonny Bairstow for me is unbelievable. How he doesn’t play all three formats for England is beyond me!
“Every time he comes into the side, he performs. It’s not just the runs he scores, but also how he does it. He’s always putting pressure on the opposition.
“I just don’t see how we can go wrong. It’s not like the side I used to play in. This is a proper team.”
The series will also be Joe Root’s first as Test captain after he was chosen to be Alastair Cook’s successor. Cook stepped down from the leadership role back in February.
When questioned how Root will fare, Flintoff said: “I am sure Joe is not going to be affected at all. Since he’s started playing international cricket, he has just taken everything in his stride.
“When he walks out on to the field, every time it’s like the best day of his life. He is obviously a fine player. He’s got the team behind him. And as captain, that’s all you need, so he’ll be fine.”