27th Jan, 2023
“Please, please don’t get injured like I did” – The Olly Stone mantra
It’s one of those stories that‘s funny to everyone except the person actually involved in it.
The year is 2016. A 22-year Olly Stone, with a reputation of bowling thunderbolts, has just gotten Moeen Ali caught behind while playing for Northamptonshire in the T20 Blast. And boy, he is excited. So he leaps up to punch the air in his followthrough in celebration. Quite normal, that’s what most people do.
But as he touches down, he lands very awkwardly on knee, so much so that he isn’t even able to get up. The damage: he is ruled out of the tournament. Celebrating wickets was never meant to be painful.
Today, as a wiser 29-year-old, Olly sees the funny side. “I do. Moeen Ali always reminds me about it (laughs). It was a freak accident. Looking back, I now see so many people jumping up in the air and celebrating. I just think, ‘please, please don’t get injured like I did’. You then realize how freak it was. I won’t be doing it again, and I can look back now and smile about it, but at that time, yeah, it was a heartbreaking moment,” he said in an exclusive chat with micapetown.co.za.
That jarred knee is just one among the many reasons why Olly has had to spend a significant chunk of his time off the cricket field. Four stress fractures to the back, a broken finger that required surgery, and multiple rehab sessions later, he now stands firmer, fitter, and certainly hungrier to make up for lost time.
Through all of this, the two things remain unchanged: one, his pace with him still firing thunderbolts regularly in the 145+ kph zone. Two, his desire to play every possible format of cricket. “It's just something I love doing. Bowling fast and being that x-factor is a great asset to have. It makes bowling enjoyable. The thought of being able to run in and not necessarily being able to hit people in the head, but you’ve got that in your armoury. I have had a few injuries but hopefully the significant ones are behind me. I know as a bowler that you are going to pick niggles here and there but when you go out and take wickets, like it has happened in this tournament so far, makes it all worthwhile. It is something I will keep doing until my body tells me I can’t,” he said.
“I love playing every format of cricket at the top level, whether it is for England or franchise cricket. It is what I love doing. It wouldn’t have sat right with me to give up on that love. If my body unfortunately doesn’t allow me in the future, then maybe that would be fine with me. Hopefully I can walk away then and have a prolonged career in white-ball cricket. But I just love cricket. There are many worse jobs to have.”
Ask him about Ben Stokes’ England with the red-ball mania they’ve created in the last six months, and Olly’s eyes light up. In his three-Test career thus far, he has been pretty impressive in each of those three games. In fact, in the Test in Chennai against India, he was England’s most-impressive bowler despite the extreme spin-friendly conditions. That dream is alive, and kicking.
“I mean, it makes you want to be a part of it. It is exciting. It’s nice to see people going out there with freedom and playing with a smile on your face. It just helps cricket going forward. You can bring it into these competitions, into four-day cricket. They’ve just shown that you don’t need to play a way in one format to be successful. I am looking forward to be a part of it. Hopefully I can hit a few sixes as well (laughs).
Having one 145+ kph fast bowler in a side is a big deal. Having two of them is gold. But with Kagiso Rabada, Jofra Archer and Olly Stone donning our MI Cape Town colours, what we have is just the stuff of dreams. The three of them, bowling in tandem, firing them in, and firing up the speedgun. Oh it truly is a sight. And off the field, they’ve been trading the pace-club secrets.
“Definitely makes your life easier (to have them around). Discussing just little things about their slower balls, how long they hit their length before they change things up. Just different ways of them going about their bowling is different to what I do, and maybe I can take it in my game to develop my game and also help the team get the results they want. It’s great rubbing shoulders with them and long may it continue,” he added.
Right now, the SA20 is in the middle of a week-long break. MI Cape Town are currently ranked fifth on the points table, with three wins and four losses. Come the business end, it’d be safe to say our knockouts would begin a lot sooner than the official ones do. Olly agrees. We haven’t really hit that sweet spot in our performances. We have been on a plateau, and it’s time we gather that winning momentum and peak.
“It’s tough. We haven’t probably played a full game of cricket where we have nailed everything. Obviously, we know coming together, we can put that all-round performance in. We have got great heart and character in this side. We get along and enjoy each other’s company.
“We know that if we put that all-round performance together, the results will come our way. Hopefully other teams are looking and thinking, ‘Christ, we need to be on our game here, cause, if not, they are going to punish us’. The togetherness will help us get through it. People have got the skill and we just need to put in that all-round performance.”