England are desperate to hold off India and retain their place at the top of the ODI rankings, says Ben Stokes, who compared his return to action to playing Call of Duty. (More Cricket News)
Making his first appearance in a 50-over international since helping England to victory in the World Cup final in July 2019, Stokes moved up to number three for the first of the three games against India, though the tourists' star all-rounder could not inspire a victory.
Indeed, another batting collapse from England resulted in a 66-run defeat behind closed doors in Pune, with Stokes only scoring one run from 11 deliveries in his new position higher up the order.
It was India's debutant all-rounder Krunal Pandya who starred, striking 58 not out from 31 balls, including seven boundaries and two sixes.
Virat Kohli's team are hot on England's tails in the one-day rankings, and a 3-0 series win would mean India take top spot.
In a further blow to England's hopes, captain Eoin Morgan will be missing for the rest of the series due to a hand injury, with Jos Buttler replacing him as skipper and Liam Livingstone coming in for a debut on Friday.
While he struggled with the bat, Stokes did take 3-34 with the ball, and he joked that his reintroduction to the ODI team after an 18-month absence felt like playing Call of Duty: Warzone – the video game which he is an avid player of, along with team-mates Jofra Archer and Stuart Broad – for the first time.
"It felt like I was dropping into Verdansk in the first game of [Call of Duty] Warzone for a while," Stokes said.
"It's crazy to think it was my first game since the World Cup final. It's amazing how quickly time can pass but it was great to be out with the rest of the boys."
Comparisons to video games aside, Stokes outlined England's focus on keeping hold of their number one spot.
"We look at it from a series point of view, that we'd be bitterly disappointed to lose it," he said.
"As we would any other. We deserve to be number one because of our results and it's obviously a fantastic thing to have next to your name as a team, but it's not our driving force.
"Our driving force is the way we go about it and our attitude towards playing the game. We know we're a much better team than that, but one thing we've been very good at is putting previous games to bed quickly, whether that be a successful game or a poor game."
Stokes was moved up to three in the absence of Joe Root, and the 29-year-old revealed he did ask England's Test captain for advice.
"I did actually message Rooty and asked him about his mind-set at three, and he was pretty clear to me in saying just play the way you play," he added
"Just because he plays a certain way doesn't mean I have to do it like that. We kept it pretty simple, but it's just a slightly different role batting at three to my usual position in this team.
"I haven't got to change too much, just face a slightly different situation when I start my innings."