LONDON: Star all-rounder Ben Stokes on Wednesday implored England's makeshift one-day squad to grab the unexpected opportunity with both hands and play with "a smile on our face" following a sudden COVID-19 outbreak in the main team.
World Cup final hero Stokes will lead a hurriedly-assembled side comprising nine uncapped players in the ODI series against Pakistan after the original squad was forced into isolation following a COVID-19 outbreak just 48 hours before Thursday's opening match in Cardiff.
Stokes was originally left out of the squad to focus on his recovery from a finger operation.
"The one thing that I told myself to make sure that I told the team, is that although this has been a very quick turnaround of events, in terms of having to pick a new squad, no matter what name is on the back of the England shirt we are walking out there as the No 1 team," said Stokes.
"That's an exciting thing to say you are a part of, whether you are an experienced player, a young player or someone who has come into the group for the first time.
"Situations like these are so rare. You've got an opportunity here to represent your country and let's all just do it with a big smile on our face and just enjoy it as much as we can as a group."
Though lacking in experience, Stokes expects the new unit to be "very" competitive.
"One of the reasons for County Cricket is to put your name in the hat for an England call up -- although you don't normally go picking 16 new players in a space of a couple of days! "The guys who have been picked have put their hand up in county cricket and deserve to be in this situation, albeit through extreme circumstances. But everyone warrants their place in the squad."
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) was forced to name an entirely different side after seven members of the England contingent -- three cricketers and four from the team management -- tested positive for the virus.
The ECB said over the weekend they were keen not to press Stokes back into international duty too quickly.
But things suddenly took a dramatic turn.
"It was the last call I was expecting, late in the evening. Spoons (head coach Chris Silverwood) straight up asked me the question 'Can you come and do it?'."
After the call happened my wife sent me a screenshot of an article saying 'England aren't going to rush Ben Stokes back'.
It's one of these situations that's an example of 'if you don't laugh you'll cry'.
"But it was like when I came back for Durham a bit earlier, my job needed me to do something, so I had to stand up and do that. It's the same with this, it's earlier than planned from a medical and fitness point of view but when a job comes and calls you, you need to stand up and make yourself available," he said.