The “door is open” for Ben Stokes to come out of retirement over 50 and play at the World Cup in India later this year, says England coach Matthew Mott.
But the all-rounder didn’t rule out a U-turn last year amid calls for him to do so after he led England to victory in the T20 World Cup final.
Mott said England were happy to await a decision.
“The door is always open for a player of this quality, but we are also very aware that his main objective is red ball cricket as captain,” said Mott, speaking before the start of the ODI series of England’s three games against South Africa on Friday. .
“We respect that and when he is ready to discuss, we will.”
Stokes was man of the match in the 2019 World Cup final when England beat New Zealand in a super spectacular to lift the trophy for the first time.
When announcing his shock retirement last July, he said ‘there’s too much cricket going in’ for players to play in all three formats.
At the time he ruled out a World Cup return saying it would be ‘unfair’ for those selected in his place, but asked again in November ahead of a series of tests in Pakistan, he said: ‘Who know? Right now, being here, I’m just focusing on this series.
“Going to a World Cup is an incredible thing to do, to represent your country. But at the moment, I’m not even thinking about it.”
Asked if England would give Stokes a deadline to make his decision, Mott said: “I had good discussions with Jos [Buttler, captain] and Rob Key [director of England men’s cricket] So.
“What we’ve come to understand, as you’ll see on this tour, is that players play a lot of franchise cricket, coming in and out at different times, so we have to keep a really flexible and open mind to the players and when we sit down to pick those 15 for the World Cup, we want to pick the best players possible.”
The World Cup will be played in October and November, by which time England will not have played a Test for over two months.
They won’t play again in the longer format until early 2024, when they return to India for a five-game Test series.
Archer “foam” to play
Stokes is not in the England squad to face South Africa this week but fast bowler Jofra Archer could make his first international appearance in nearly two years as he returns from injury.
Mott said Archer “can’t wait to play” but England will manage him through a year that includes an Ashes series as well as the World Cup.
“Having watched him from afar, I think he is one of the most exciting things that has happened in cricket in the last decade,” Mott said.
“The best thing I can say is that we have a general plan of what [Archer’s schedule] might look like.
“We’ll work with him, see how his body does. I really think he’s a priority and will be handled as well as possible.”