There are six candidates for the BBC & # 39; s Sports Personality of the Year Award and I would be with anyone bicker from them if they were called the winner. Lewis Hamilton, Katarina Johnson-Thompson Dina Asher-Smith Raheem Sterling and Alun Wyn Jones have been inspired and amazed over the past 12 months.
The truth, however, is that I didn't have to think too deeply about who I would vote this year. Perhaps it helps that I was with Lord in July to see him lead England to victory in one of the biggest cricket matches there has ever been. Perhaps it helps that I saw the start of his momentous innings in Headingley six weeks later.
So although the standard seems higher than ever, although it seems strange that Hamilton, our greatest active sportsman, should be overlooked. Again, the choice seemed easier this year. The bookmakers think there is little room for a fight and I agree with them: my choice would be Ben Stokes.
It makes no sense to highlight shortcomings in the cases of the other m and women on the list because they are not there. But Stokes did things in a golden summer for English cricket, which, even in a year in which Tiger Woods won the US Masters again, tested the limits of the sport's ability to deliver drama and deliverance.
Like Woods, Stokes stopped the sports world last year. He put it in his tracks and made it to him with a weak jaw and bulging eyes and bitten nails and a beating heart. He did it not once but twice.
If you were not with Lord on July 14 while your chest tightened and your face turned pale with nerves, you wish you were there. If you were not in Headingley on August 25, you will always remember where you saw Stokes from what he did that day to win the third test against Australia.
It was the summer in which Stokes redeemed himself and the sport he honors. It was the summer in which a raw, special talent did what even an acquittal could do and blotted out the stain of his role in a nocturnal fight in Bristol and the rush to the judgment that preceded the process that cleared him up.
Stokes brought new levels of courage and versatility for a venerable old sport at a crossroads. At a time when it is looking for identity in a changing world, Stokes cricket seemed up-to-date and viable and again visceral and dynamic. The game needed a headline act like never before and Stokes gave them one. He gave it the greatest gift anyone could give it. He gave it modernity.
Cricket is trapped between the tradition of the Test match format and pushing the limits of the game with limited overs. That's why there are times when it feels like it's fighting for survival. Stokes fearlessly waded into that uncertainty and within six enchanted weeks ensured that cricket can still seize the nation. Stokes reassured us that since the sports managers are trying to convince a new generation that cricket can still be relevant, while it is preparing to sell us a new format called The Hundred, our summer sports still occupy a prominent place in popular culture .
Stokes not only won the World Cup for England for the first time last summer, he revived his sport. We know the details of what he has already done by heart. He scored top in England & # 39; s innings in the World Cup Final against New Zealand, dragged his team back into the game, curbed his natural instincts to play innings combining cruelty and discipline, and brought England to the end of 50 overs.
Then he went outside and repeated the performance. Already exhausted from his efforts, and also top score in the Super Over, helping to make New Zealand a total that they could not overcome. We don't have many World Cup competition winners in this country, but at those moments on that Sunday, Stokes joined Sir Geoff Hurst and Jonny Wilkinson as heroes of our greatest sporting hours.
That was perhaps enough to get the BBC award on its own. But then, two months after the last World Cup, Stokes did not hold out the Ashes series against Australia with an innings of 135, which combined infinite patience, strategy and incredible courage to win the third test at Headingley.
He devised England's highly successful run-chase ever, capped by the meticulous way in which he calculated risk and reward when his batting partners ran out. At the height of it all, Stokes shared an unbroken last-wicket stand of 76 with Jack Leach. Leach scored one point.
Many respected game observers, old and young, former players and journalists, said they were the largest test innings they had ever seen. It was an inning for all ages. And it was an inning for his age. It brought us the best of modern cricket. It brought us a glorious hybrid of all his arts. It brought us the best that the game can offer.
On Saturday-evening, Stokes scored two runs in his first 50 balls. Determined to stay in the fold, determined to win a game that felt most lost, Stokes would not admit. And then on Sunday he cut loose. The discipline was still there, but he left it with a series of shots – in particular a reverse swing for six over a deep point – that were astonishing in their conception and execution.
When he hit the winning runs, a new generation of cricket fans from England got his own summer to compete with Botham & Ashes in 1981, his own high point, his own moment in time, his own & # 39; I was there & # 39; We will always remember 2019 when the year that cricket came home.
After all the striving, after all those years of pain and disappointment and anti-climax, after all decades of trying to win the World Cup, it was Stokes, more than anyone else, that English cricket across the border to carried the pantheon, where he and his teammates will join the Boys of 66 and Martin Johnson & # 39; s rugby heroes of 2003.
Stokes & book that recalls what happened is called On Fire. In a year of great achievements for British athletes and women, his twin triumphs burned the brightest.