On the outskirts of Garden City, where the suburbs are preparing to give in to the rugged majesty of New Zealand's South Island, a low-rise house sits at the end of an elegant dead end.
There is no bell, but Ben Stokes responds to the knock. He is barefoot and in shorts. On his black t-shirt is a picture of a wolf with his teeth bared. On either side of the wolf's head, there is a & # 39; W & # 39; capital.
Two & # 39; s. Two wins Two big wins. Two seismic bursts of greatness under pressure on a golden summer of English cricket. Two unique performances within six weeks of each other, creating a sense of repeating miracles.
Ben Stokes was written in cricket folklore with his World Cup appearances and Ashes
What Stokes did last summer was like watching Liverpool return 3-0 to beat AC Milan in Istanbul and Manchester United score twice in the last two minutes to beat Bayern Munich in Barcelona. And the same guy achieving all the goals in both. Whatever he does in his career, Stokes's legend is guaranteed forever.
Stokes won the World Cup final twice for England on the same day, once with the entries against New Zealand that mixed control and savagery and ensured their team a draw after 50 matches. And again, with your contribution to Super Over. A few weeks later, he played the best entries in Ashes history.
Stokes smiles. & # 39; When we are old and retired and doing what we are doing & # 39; he says, & # 39; we can always look back and say we were part of the biggest English summer cricket we have ever had.
Stokes with parents Ged (left) and Deborah (right) on Oval after England beat India last year
“It was amazing, but I don't think anyone will be able to process it and fully understand what we were able to do in the field this year until a later date.
The boys are playing again. We have a series of tests against New Zealand starting next week. We have South Africa coming. We have a lot to think about and plan for 2019 to be forgotten by us until we retire. But it will be remembered as the best summer we have ever played.
There is no agent here. No advertisers. No entourage. There was no reason to think about his prodigious deeds and the accompanying applause. Stokes remains one of the most ruthless and unpretentious men. He shakes his hands and heads for the hall.
English sport man of the year sits in a reclining chair. A dog tag hangs around his neck. His gaze remains on the highlights of a rugby league match between Fiji and Samoa. He points the remote at the television and mutes it.
He sat in the same chair, he says, to watch England in the Rugby World Cup final against South Africa earlier this month. He is a nervous bystander, so when England started badly, tension came to him. He held on just 10 minutes before getting up and leaving. From time to time, he would ask for updates. He returned to the final stages when the die was thrown.
Stokes produced a masterclass to help England win New Zealand and win the World Cup
He gives a thumbs up after guiding England to success in a nail-biting Super Over at Lord's
This is his parents' house. Stokes grew up in Christchurch, where his father played in the Canterbury rugby league, a legendary man for being tough and inflexible on the pitch. Ged Stokes showed no weakness.
One season he played for so long with a damaged finger tied that in the end he had to be amputated above the joint. The family left for England when Ben was 12 and returned home without him at 21.
Stokes, 28, shares the indomitable character of his father. When he was struck by a security guard during his epic entry to the Headingley Third Test last summer, the helmet guards flew, but Stokes was determined not to show any vulnerability.
In the field, at least, he hates the vulnerability. "Oh, big tough guy," David Warner scoffed at him as Stokes turned down offers of help. For Stokes, it was second nature.
"I would never back down," says Stokes. “It was raised on me since I was a kid here and played in the rugby league, where I was so much smaller than everyone else. I really don't care about the size of the person. It was raised in me that I wouldn't go back for bigger guys than me.
The 28-year-old raises the World Cup alongside friend Joe Root as England celebrate
“I liked it when people struggled to put me on my back just because I was younger. I played number 6 in the rugby league, so I had a lot of ball. I tried to make the pieces so you are in action.
“People were always trying to crush you, but I would never show it if I was hurt. That's where my attitude comes from. This and the genes passed from my father.
If he were a soccer player, it seems fair to assume that he would not be a diver. "If the referee knows they have dived, just send them," he says.
& # 39; Give them a red card because they are trying to cheat. If a referee does this, everyone will stop doing so. It is the same when players appear and abuse the referees. If the referees started receiving red cards, no one else would.
Stokes is a good company. People like him. There are no gimmicks about it. But there's still a feeling it's hard to shake when you're talking to him in a nice hall in a nice house on a nice street. It feels like this is not your natural habitat. It is the knowledge that Stokes is a doer, not a talker.
He may stay in the suburbs for a while, but sooner or later he will head for the hills.
Inside the dressing room, he is seen in high spirits when he hits the World Cup trophy
Stokes is like Sir Ian Botham or Wayne Rooney or Tiger Woods. Normal life holds people like them. Talking to them doesn't even come close to them.
The words are a pale imitation of their essence. They need to escape. They need an avenue for something that burns inside them and find it out in the field. Normal life is a restriction. They are always trying to get out of it.
Stokes is natural. He will not be confined. It cannot be confined. He plays the way he does, and when he's in the zone, nothing can stop him. Sometimes the problem finds it because it is difficult for a man like him to put out the flame. It's the way we have to take him, because it's the only way he knows. Tie it up and you emasculate it. You take what makes it special.
Like your child, your parents do not like noise and boast.
There is nothing here that screams that they are the parents of the cricketer who defined our summer. There are no framed shirts or caps hanging on the wall. No photos of moments of triumph. There are some old family photos on the shelves. Hidden among them, half forgotten, was a trophy that Ged won for the coach of the year when he was Canterbury's boss.
Stokes can't make it back so often, so he's enjoying being here with Ged and his mother, Deb, who was once a cricketer too. The only thing he found strange was the family reunion his parents organized shortly after he arrived. Not that he didn't like to see everyone again. But being the center of attention makes him uncomfortable.
He signs T-shirts and autographs as England celebrate their Oval Cricket World Cup victory
Stokes produced an entry for ages as England won Ashes's third test against Australia
"What I've found hardest since summer," he says, "is being somewhere and being praised in front of a group of people I don't know. I don't see much of my family and we had a family reunion here. Someone was saying, "Oh my God, you did so well. It is amazing to see. Since you were a boy … "I was like," Thank you. "It's good to hear that, but it was a little embarrassing.
He better get used to it.
His achievements in the World Cup and the Ashes mean he is the favorite to win the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award, although Lewis Hamilton won his sixth F1 world title this season. Stokes says she would vote for Dina Asher-Smith, who became the first British woman to win a big world sprint title when she won 200 million at the Doha World Championship.
What Stokes did last summer is a remarkable achievement in English sport. And that is before you add your insides. This is before you recognize that the two epic triumphs he created for his team were also part of one of the greatest redemption stories the sport has ever written. And already wrote some.
Stokes's elevation to the national hero is an impressive reversal of fortune for a man who stepped in to defend two gay men from a homophobic attack in Bristol one evening in September 2017 and got into a fight that left two other men unconscious.
The fight was registered on CCTV and many ruled on Stokes's guilt before the case reached the court.
Stokes courted controversy in 2017 after he was involved in a fight outside a nightclub
But the cricket star was not found guilty of assault after a Bristol Crown Court trial in 2018
Stokes was accused of outrage, stripped of the vice-captaincy of the England test team he valued so much, sustained as an example of a reckless and arrogant sportsman, forced to miss an Ashes tour in Australia and eventually dismissed after a six-day trial. at the Bristol Crown Court in August 2018.
Stokes was angry that he had faced 11 months of insinuation and accusations over a case he believed should never have come to court because he acted in self-defense against two men carrying weapons.
But in the time since his acquittal, he also accepted his father's argument that when a man has Stokes's celebrity level, "nothing good happens at two in the morning."
"I definitely did things to change my behavior," says Stokes. “There are certain things you cannot do when you reach a certain level in what you do. When it comes to a certain moment, you are a …
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