Stokes preparing for IPL despite likely virus shutdown

London (AFP) –


England all-rounder Ben Stokes says he is preparing to play in the Indian Premier League, even though he knows the tournament is unlikely to go ahead.

Stokes has signed to play for Rajasthan Royals and is one of 13 English players set to feature in the IPL.

But the Twenty20 tournament has already been delayed until April 15 in response to the pandemic and India entered a three-week lockdown in a bid to contain the spread on Wednesday.

"At the moment my next competitive cricket is going to be in the IPL," Stokes told the BBC on Wednesday.

"That hasn't changed yet so I have to think I will be playing on April 20."

Last week, the England and Wales Cricket Board announced that the English county season would not start until at least the end of May, while England's tour of Sri Lanka was also postponed due to the virus.

With IPL chiefs yet to call off or further delay their event, Stokes has to continue to keep himself in shape to play in the unlikely event he is asked to travel to India.

"I have to get my head round that I am playing even though in the back of my mind I know I am probably not," he added.

"I have to build up and get myself physically in a position that if it does happen I am good to go.

"I cannot take three weeks off and expect the body to be ready for April 20 because it doesn't work like that. It might happen and if it does I don't want to be behind.

"There will be a lot of advice given to us and if it was an option to go we will have to take the sensible one."

Stokes said England's players were initially shocked when the two-Test Sri Lanka tour was cancelled.

But the 28-year-old is well aware it was the right thing to do in the circumstances.

"Everyone was shell-shocked for half an hour in the changing room. It was such a weird feeling because we had been there for 10-12 days. We were building up to the first Test and then we were going home," Stokes said.

"But when you put everything together in terms of where the world was with the coronavirus, and what was being said on tour, it was the wrong place to be at that time and everyone's health is more important than anything else in the world."