G Force with Gareth Breese and Gordon Muchall: Passion makes Stokes great

Ben Stokes.
Ben Stokes.
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BEN Stokes may be heartbroken at missing out on the World Twenty20, but his time will come again.

Stokesy fractured his hand in a disgreement with a locker after getting out for a duck against West Indies and has had to pull out of England’s squad for this month’s tournament in Bangladesh.

Well, they do say redheads are ‘fiery’!

Stokesy is a passionate guy and when he squared up to Mitchell Johnson in the Third Ashes Test, puffing his chest out, and scored what Alastair Cook called one of the best hundreds he’d seen, it was because of his passion for the game.

That’s what makes him the player that he is and while no one condones him hitting the locker, you can’t take that side of his personality away from him.

His passion, his desire ... it’s what makes him one of the biggest talents in English cricket right now.

He’s fiercely competitive and goes into every game wanting to win. He lives and breathes cricket.

It’s unfortunate for him and England. They’ve lost one of their most talented players and he’s missing out on a massive opportunity to play in the World T20 but I’m sure other opportunities will come his way.

He’s not the first player to have made a mistake like that. I remember when I was much younger, playing in Barbados, I came into the changing room after making a low score (again!) and threw my bat down into my bag. It lay there with the handle sticking out so I went to kick it but I didn’t realise it was jammed up against the wall.

It didn’t move but I heard a loud crack and felt the pain. But I was a young man in a team with the likes of Jimmy Adams and Courtney Walsh and there was no way I was going to admit what I’d done. I had a fracture in my toe but I just had to grin and bear it.

It happens – we’ve all been there – but you know that a big score is just around the corner.

Currently in the West Indies the pitches aren’t what they used to be and it is a hard place to go and play, especially limited over games. The West Indies know their conditions and you have seen lots of players struggle in the T20 format, against the Windies at home.

They impressed in the series against England and they go into the World Cup looking very strong with a lot of in-form players. England didn’t have the greatest series but finished with a win and any win boosts confidence going into a tournament.

The last time, the West Indies flew under the radar to secure the title, so now they go in as defending champions with a powerful line-up. They love this format and have got the confidence.

In Darren Sammy they’ve got a great captain who has improved immensely over the last 18 months and has built a solid reputation as the finisher. He’s doing a fantastic job and seems to be enjoying it, playing with a smile on his face. When players are enjoying their cricket, they play better, and also with their talisman Chris Gayle back the confidence must be high!

So West Indies would be my tip for the tournament especially with our friend and former team-mate Ottis Gibson as coach, though Muchy fancies India.

Given our track record, if you’ve got any sense you’ll bet on any other country apart from those two!

- Gareth Breese

THE suncream is packed, the speedos are dusted off and we’re all set to jet off on our jollies!

Or, in reality, an eight-day bootcamp in the heat.

The squad flies to Dubai today for our season opener against the MCC in Abu Dhabi as part of our preparations for the defence of our County Championship crown. For obvious reasons it’s the game every county wants to take part in, and we’re delighted and proud to be going over there after winning the title last year.

It’s great to get outside and hopefully spend some time in the middle. You do all the work you can indoors and in the nets, but nothing replicates being out there on the pitch for eight hours at a time, other than actually doing it.

With the changes from last season and a few new players coming into the ranks, it’s good to get everyone together. It’s about the camaraderie as much as anything else. A great team spirit is essential to success, as we’ve proved at Durham.

This is a first-class game against some good players, and any 11 representing Durham will be wanting to fight for starting places.

But to get lads together for eight days after people have been away in different places over the winter is also very important.

You’re going to be spending six months together during the season, spending at times seven days a week living in each other’s pockets during the season, so it’s vital everyone bonds.

Last year, we went to Scotland in pre-season and got caught in a blizzard, but that was great for bonding – and we went on to win the title.

Unfortunately, Breesey has had to pull out of the trip for personal reasons, and another player who won’t be on the trip with us is our new signing John Hastings, pictured left, but everyone at the club is delighted to welcome him to Durham.

He’ll join us at the end of May or beginning of June when the Indian Premier League finishes, and it’s good to add some more experience to the ranks.

We’ve had experience in the past with the likes of Dale Benkenstein and Michael Di Venuto, and I know how much learning from them, and the likes of Shiv Canderpaul and Mike Hussey helped my game when I was younger.

Lads who are coming through and finding their feet can pick up things from players like those who have played on the biggest stage.

But first and foremost he’s here to do a job for the first team, and given his pedigree and the fact he’s been capped by Australia, I’m sure he’ll be a great addition.

- Gordon Muchall