Martin Smith column: The growing pains of greatness
The agony of those moments will never leave him.
They will be layered over by other traumas and trophies, invincible and indifferent days will come and go but he will always carry the scars. And as a country we should thank Ben Stokes for that.
It’s almost too painful to recall West Indies needing 19 off the last over to win Sunday’s 20/20 World Cup final, England and Ben Stokes needed to be calm, professional and accurate. They were all those things but they weren’t enough.
Stokes’ devastation was balanced by the sheer euphoria of Carlos Braithwaite and his incredible four sixes in four balls. It can go either way for Stokes now. He can allow that to become the day he began to lose faith in himself or the day that made him even more mentally strong.
The day his abject misery became the new core of his freshly hardened and tempered desire to succeed.
Mistakes in key games at any level haunt players but the best use it to their advantage. And Stokes is one of the best.
One of our young sportsmen and women re-shaping our big three national sports.
England’s cricketers are the number one test team in the world and 20/20 finalists.
Our rugby team are grand slam champions and our football team has just beaten the world champions on their own ground.
The common denominator? Youth. Young players with desire, ability and commitment.
Every one of them would have swapped places with Stokes to play in a world final and every one of them knows how he is hurting now.
It remains to be seen what this generation is made of in terms of delivering titles and trophies but the raw material is there and starting to produce.
The cynic in us says we’ve seen all this before, and of course we have. But we saw in the run-up to the 2012 Olympic Games that our cyclists, runners, rowers and sailors were on the brink of something special.
And now our professional team-sport players look to have some of that desire and discipline about them.
Cynics will say: ‘Stop the flag-waving, we’ve been here so many times before’. Yes we have.
But rarely have we had such talented crops of young players in dynamic teams in our big three sports at the same time.
Let’s give them a chance to learn even if it’s the hard way for all of us.