Ben Stokes has become an imminent part of the England's Test squad    Getty Images
Ben Stokes has become an imminent part of the England’s Test squad Getty Images

Only the top sides across formats in cricket can tell about how crucial those men can be, who are defined as all-rounders. These cricketers chip in with both bat and the ball; they are indomitable even while fielding. But more often than not, trying to justify their role in both the departments, all-rounders invariably end up facing an identity crisis. They start off on a promising note, either with a good batting display or a breathtaking bowling performance, but as their journey progresses, their descriptions change as well. Some are called batting all-rounders, while some start being known as bowling all-rounders. There are a very few who remain true to their nature. England s 25-year-old cricketer, Ben Stokes, is one such all-rounder who continues being true to the label. Full Cricket Scorecard: India vs England 1st Test at Rajkot

Stokes is perhaps the only all-rounder in the last few years who has justified the tag of all-rounder , and lived up to the expectations in his short career so far. Stokes, in fact, in a very little time, has done a lot more than that. The current England coach Trevor Bayliss envisages Stokes ending his career as one of the best all-rounders ever seen. The former West Indies coach Phil Simmons put him in the mould of Jacques Kallis .

Be it his monumental 258 at Cape Town against South Africa, or his lethal bowling spell of 6 for 36 against Australia at Nottingham, or even that iconic catch off Stuart Broad which resulted in one of the most memorable Ashes 2015 photographs; Stokes has usually been at the forefront in England s dominating performances. In 27 Tests, Stokes has struck 3 centuries and taken 71 wickets, but his contribution to England cricket and the promise that the 25-year-old carries are going to be very significant in time to come.

The fact that Stokes has significantly improved as one of the best England batsmen is not just a statement, it carries far greater importance when the team is set for 5 gruelling Tests in India. In a series where spin bowling is expectedly going to define the outcome, Stokes improved footwork, resulting in the batsmen prodding forward confidently to push the ball in the gaps for runs without allowing it to turn will be extremely crucial down in the batting order for England in India.

Stokes was the reason why England came out of Bangladesh tour with a drawn Test series. His innings of 85 in the final innings at Chittagong in the first Test was the catalyst in England s victory, let alone the fact that the last two wickets on final day went into the all-rounder s kitty. Stokes counter-attacking 101 at Lord s against New Zealand played a key role in England s victory in the first Test of the two-match series; while England went on to lose the second contest. Take out Stokes from both these Tests and England would have lost a series each to New Zealand and Bangladesh.

Certainly, Stokes has enjoyed top-flight cricket, and the progress that he has made is spurring him to get even better. Desperate for success, as hungry may not be the right word here, Stokes could be one of those few cricketers who will play all games for England on their subcontinental sojourn. “I’ll play all seven (Tests) if I still get picked, I’d rather get dropped,” he said some time ago.

Over the last two years, Stokes has emerged as one of those indispensable players for England who are dearly missed when they are not around, and this is why there are former captains like Michael Vaughan sounding out warnings even before the all-rounder is deployed in the Test series in India. England knows that Stokes is one of those players in their ranks who have the abilities to change contests with rapidity, and thus, their availability for all important matches is a must.

With 3 centuries and 7 half-centuries in his 27 Tests so far, Stokes numbers clearly indicate that he enjoys playing red-ball cricket more than any other format. He averages a healthy 33.12 in Tests compared to 27.94 in ODIs and a poor 13.27 in T20Is while batting. With the ball, Stokes once again has the least average 33.32 in Tests compared to 37.76 in ODIs and an embarrassing 49.37 in T20Is. Clearly, red-ball cricket is Stokes forte and the all-rounder, who has stood tall for England in adversities on more than one occasion, will like playing Tests in India.

Till recently, England were sweating over the fitness of their pace spearhead James Anderson, who, in the former Indian Test captain MS Dhoni s words, was the difference between the two sides on their last tour of India in 2012. Anderson got the ball to move around and his deftness in swing and seam bowling played a key role in England s victory. While Anderson s early recovery would have relieved England, the hope of producing strong bowling shows with Stokes being a crucial member will provide them tremendous confidence. Stokes too has the ability to move the ball around dangerously, and the ability to bowl from wide of the crease into the right-handers will certainly Test the Indian batting.

Now, with Anderson looking set for a quick return, England will be excited to see their four-pronged pace attack taking a good shape, wherein Stokes role will be as crucial as the strike bowlers.

The current England side differs a lot from their preceding ones only because they are far more resilient, determined and hungry for success, and players like Stokes provide the impetus. In the lower-order, he is not only one of the most technically correct batsmen; Stokes stroke-play is among the neatest and this is where his presence sounds ominous for the opposition. Stokes has worked extremely hard to make sure he does not fall in the age-old pitfalls of overseas batsmen facing spin in the subcontinent, and the results of the toil that he has gone through were visible on the Bangladesh tour.

In the three-match ODI series wherein England ended Bangladesh s winning streak at home, Stokes was their highest run-getter. Stokes role in the Test series has already been highlighted, but not the fact that he ended the two-Test affair as the leading run-scorer for England. And this is not all, he might have been ordinary with his bowling in the ODIs, but Stokes was the highest wicket-taker for England in the Tests with 11 scalps.

There are little doubts that Stokes will not only remain England s greatest trump card in the upcoming five-Test series, but he will be the biggest threat to India. With a usual wide grin and extremely positive attitude, Stokes comes across as a cricketer who is rarely bogged down with what is happening around him.

Stokes will be more than eager to fire against India with the bat since he has a deplorable record in two Tests. Stokes, in three Test innings against India, has not scored any run. On the Indian tour of England in 2014, the left-hander fell for a second-ball duck at Nottingham, while he bagged a pair at Lord s wherein India defeated England after 28 long years. However, 7 wickets in those 2 Tests do raise hope of a strong show by the English all-rounder.

England s chances in India, irrespective of several factors such as the build-up, the rich form of the hosts and the strength and weaknesses of the touring party may have a limited say in the outcome since there are players like Stokes in the mix who can turn around tables in a limited amount of time. England will be confident having Stokes firing all cylinders

(Devarchit Varma is a senior writer with CricketCountry. He can be followed on Twitter @Devarchit)