England allrounder Ben Stokes has spoken from managed isolation in New Zealand of his emotional response to news his father Ged has been diagnosed with brain cancer.
Stokes has returned to his home town of Christchurch to be with his family and spoke to New Zealand media while spending two weeks in quarantine.
New Zealand-born Stokes said he had no choice but to leave the England team during its recent test series against Pakistan after learning of his 64-year-old father’s diagnosis.
“I didn’t sleep for a week and my head wasn’t really in it,” Stokes told the Weekend Herald Saturday. “Leaving was the right choice from a mental point of view.”
Gerald (Ged) Stokes is a former New Zealand rugby league representative who coached for a decade in England, where Ben Stokes was raised from the age of 12.
His illness was diagnosed in January when he returned to Christchurch from South Africa where he had been watching England’s four-Test series against South Africa.
Ged Stokes was admitted to hospital in Johannesburg with bleeding on the brain just before England’s Boxing Day Test. Ben Stokes was aware his father was seriously ill when he made 120 against South Africa in the third test at Port Elizabeth, which England won by an innings and 53 runs.
When Stokes made a century against the West Indies in Manchester this year, he celebrated with a three-finger salute. The gesture is a tribute to his father who, during his playing days, sought to have a dislocated finger amputated to allow him to resume playing sooner.
“His reputation sort of speaks for itself,” Ben Stokes said. “You speak to anyone who knows him, played with him or worked with him, they’d all say the same thing.
“Most people acquire a softer side with age and sometimes with Dad that has been quite weird to see. What he’s going through has brought that side out as well. We all knew he had it, he just didn’t show it often.”
Stokes said his father has had a strong influence on his career.
“He was tough,” he said. “But as I got older I realized it was all for a reason. He knew I wanted to be a professional sportsman and he was drilling that into me as I started to make a career in cricket.”