Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98
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Ben Stokes never countenanced the possibility of leaving the World Cup early to bring his impending knee surgery forwards, despite England's Test tour to India looming in two-and-a-half months' time. Going home, he said, would have been "the easy way out".
Stokes revealed before England's 33-run defeat to Australia in Ahmedabad last week that he will have an operation later this month in a bid to solve the chronic left-knee issue which has seen him play as a specialist batter since the start of July. He expects his rehabilitation to take between five and seven weeks, leaving a short turnaround before his Test team tour to India in January. The first of the five Tests begins on January 25 in Hyderabad.
But even after their elimination was confirmed, Stokes said he did not consider heading home ahead of England's final two group fixtures. "Just because things haven't gone as we'd wanted, there were never any thoughts about leaving early, taking the easy way out," he said. "We came here as part of a team and we will leave here as one."
Jos Buttler, England's captain, said that there had not been a conversation about the possibility of Stokes leaving. "It's not his style at all: he's here to play in the World Cup. He wants to be here and it's important for us to try and qualify for that Champions Trophy. He wants to make sure we try and achieve that."
Stokes significantly improved England's prospect of qualifying for that tournament in 18 months' time on Wednesday evening, hitting 108 off 84 balls against Netherlands in Pune to put them seventh in the group stage heading into the final round of fixtures. It was his maiden World Cup century, in what is likely to be his penultimate World Cup appearance.
Having reversed his retirement for this tournament, Stokes is highly unlikely to feature in ODIs after England's final group game against Pakistan in Kolkata on Saturday. In any case, that will be his last 50-over match for at least 10 months: his surgery will rule him out of England's tour to the Caribbean next month, and they do not play another ODI until September 2024.
Stokes was non-committal over his future plans on Wednesday night, saying that he had "no idea" whether Saturday will be his final ODI. Rob Key, England's managing director, is in Kolkata ahead of the Pakistan game. "I'm sure there will be a conversation [with him]," Stokes said. "But I don't know when that will be."
After missing England's first three games at the World Cup with a hip injury sustained doing lunges in a hotel gym in Guwahati, Stokes said that his physical fitness improved over the course of the tournament. "I have used the time between games to give myself a better opportunity [of recovering well] after the surgery," he said.
"All the work in the gym doesn't compare to what you go through out there [on the pitch]. I'm looking forward to getting it sorted and not having to worry like I have these past 18 months. From a physical point of view, I'm better off than when I first got out here. But physical fitness and cricket fitness are two different things."