Ben Stokes will be sidelined for up to three months and will miss the start of what is a hectic summer schedule for England after he has surgery on a broken left index finger on Monday.
Stokes has undergone a second X-ray and a CT scan on the injury suffered while taking a diving catch during his first match for Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League last week and is now certain to miss the two-Test series against New Zealand that starts at Lord’s on 2 June.
The 29-year-old’s comeback will hinge on how quickly he recovers from next week’s procedure in Leeds – performed by the same consultant, Doug Campbell, who operated on his broken wrist seven years ago – and the 12-week timeframe given by England is a worst-case scenario.
While a quick healer in the past, the three T20s and three ODIs against Sri Lanka from the end of June are likely to be too soon for Stokes regardless and ultimately it will be a case of how Joe Root’s vice-captain best prepares for the marquee five-Test series against India from 4 August.
As an allrounder, Stokes will need to get overs into his legs, with Durham’s four-day County Championship match at home to Nottinghamshire from 11 July one such chance. The marketing department at the England and Wales Cricket Board will hope he can play for Northern Superchargers when the Hundred starts later that month.
There is a school of thought that this enforced time off for Stokes may prove to be beneficial in the long run, with England’s main targets being the T20 World Cup in India that starts in October and the Ashes campaign in Australia at the end of the year.
However, with his IPL campaign wiped out and Stokes having only a chance to feature in the six limited overs matches against Pakistan in July, opportunities to work out his best role in England’s T20 side may be limited to the winter tours of Bangladesh and Pakistan before the bid to unite two global white-ball trophies.
Stokes is one of two England players with broken fingers, with Dom Sibley confirmed to have done the same to his right hand when playing for Warwickshire this week. The Test opener’s injury, confirmed as a fracture to his middle finger, is believed to be less severe but it will still hamper his preparations before facing New Zealand.
The other matter England are yet to resolve is when and where Jofra Archer returns. The fast bowler moves to high-intensity training next week after recent finger and elbow problems but whether he is given the green light to then fly out to the IPL – or is asked to make his comeback with Sussex – remains to be seen.
Like Stokes, who is expected to have insurance for his £1.3m deal, Archer plays for Rajasthan Royals, the franchise which has a number of links with the ECB from members of the medical team through to boardroom level.