Rajasthan Royals' star England all-rounder Ben Stokes is hoping that his swashbuckling return to form with a hundred would not just rejuvenate his side but also give some happiness to his family as it copes with his father Ged's battle with brain cancer. Rajasthan rode on a blistering 107 by Stokes and an equally aggressive 54 by Sanju Samson to overhaul a 196-run target set by defending champions Mumbai Indians with 10 balls to spare on Sunday. The duo forged an unbeaten 152-run stand for the second wicket.
"It's a bit difficult at the moment, things are a bit tough back at home, hopefully, this will give them some happiness," Stokes told official broadcaster 'Star Sports' in the post-match presentation.
Stokes, who missed the early part of the tournament to be with his father in New Zealand, said he was relieved to finally come to the party after a sluggish start in the opening role. "Sort of bittersweet to be honest - it took so long to get one for the team. I would have preferred to get this form two or three games before when we weren't relying on other results to get us through to the qualifiers," he said.
"Came into the game with a lot more confidence than the other games. Nice to spend some time out in the middle and finish the game off. The ball was coming on nicely - be it short or full."
Rajasthan Royals skipper Steve Smith described the partnership between Stokes and Samson as "sensational" and said the eight-wicket win was just the kind of result they needed to get their IPL campaign back on track. "Very pleased, that's what we were crying for, two of our experienced players take the game deep and the way I think those two (Stokes and Samson) finished it off today and played was sensational, so very pleased," Smith said.
"I thought that partnership with him (Stokes) and Sanju was sensational," added the Australian.
Smith said that his team was lacking match-winning contributions from experienced players, which it finally got against Mumbai. "I hope our batters from tonight take a bit of confidence and momentum into the next game.
"That is what we have lacked, our experienced players going on to make match-winning contributions and getting the team close to home or home, as they did tonight, so I thought the guys did a fantastic job and hopefully we can take that into the next two games," he said.
Losing skipper Kieron Pollard conceded that Mumbai were unable to contain the destructive duo of Stokes and Samson. "Sometimes in life you have to do that (say well played to the opposition). They batted fantastically well. But 195/5 at half-time, I thought Hardik brought us back into the game, but well played to Stokes and Samson," said Pollard.
"We got a couple of early wickets but were not able to capitalise on that. When you play a game of cricket, someone has to win and someone has to lose and we ended on the losing side this time around," added the West Indian.
Outside noise doesn't matter
Asked how he dealt with the ups and downs as a cricketer in the last couple of years, Stokes said: "Outside noise can affect people in different ways, when I was younger it affected me. "It took me a while to understand that outside noise isn't what matters. It is all about what's within the team or people who have an influence on you, on your career," he told teammate Samson in a video uploaded on IPLT20.com.
Stokes, who had missed the initial matches of the IPL to be with his ailing father Ged in New Zealand, was elevated to the role of an opener by the Royals but he struggled in his new position initially. The Royals, however, persisted with the plan and the move finally paid dividends against Mumbai Indians as Stokes was back to his destructive best, smashing 14 fours and three sixes in his unbeaten knock.
Stokes was delighted to repay the faith the team has shown in him over the years. "I have had backing from everyone at the franchise, I know I haven't delivered to the expectations of that but having that backing from the people that matter in the franchise is really the thing that I sort of pride everything on. It's good to return the faith," Stokes said.
The comprehensive eight-wicket win keeps the inaugural season champions alive in the race for the playoff spot. "To beat a team like Mumbai by eight wickets is fantastic especially considering the momentum that Mumbai probably carried in with the innings that Hardik played. Some special striking. So, yeah great to get a win," he added.