Ben Stokes helping out at Christchurch club trainings

Ben Stokes takes part in a catching drill. Photo: Getty Images
Ben Stokes takes part in a catching drill. Photo: Getty Images
England cricketer Ben Stokes is finding time to aid the development of some Canterbury cricketers during his stay back home.

The New Zealand-born all-rounder is here to spend time with his ill father Ged, who was diagnosed with brain cancer last month. In between time with family, the World Cup winner is doing his best to finetune his skills on the pitch.

One club is benefiting immensely from his services. The Sydenham Cricket Club is located in central Christchurch and on top of being in close proximity to the Stokes household; it also has a strong connection to the 29-year-old.

"He's got a real close connection with the club, in particular Graham Harris who's the president, some family history there," Sydenham Premier head coach Matthew Bell says.

Bell, a former Black Caps batsman, says his players are doing all they can to benefit from Stokes' brief yet priceless appearances. Sydenham's cricket season gets underway on October 3, with red ball cricket for the first three rounds before moving into the white ball. Stokes has played a part in helping the team prepare.

"He's only been around for a week or so, and rubbed shoulders with three or four players. I suppose just that one-on-one time has proved special to pick his brains, the batters that did play against him understand how he's trying to set them up and how they can come up with a good game plan. Also the way he's produced some pretty phenomenal innings as a batter.

"The thrill they get out of that - to see how he goes about his business and what pace he bowls at - it's a once in a lifetime opportunity for those guys that never get that chance," he adds.

Despite leave from competition Stokes is not holding back when he does get his hand on a bat or ball. He posted a video on his Instagram bowling to one of the team's batsman, and having little trouble whacking the stumps.

Bell says one of the obvious qualities that has shone through is Stokes' dedication to his craft.

"If you're going to be at the top of your game you can't have too much time off.

"He wants to stay on top of his fitness and being match ready for whenever he is ready to return, whether that is IPL or for England."

It is unknown at this stage when or where Stokes will take the field again. A return to the Rajasthan Royals in the IPL has been reported for early October, but that hinges on his father's health.

Bell says while they would love to have Stokes don their strip, they know the purpose of his trip.

"He's here for his family and we're here to help him with his cricket.

"He's popping down during the day for an hour and a half and having a good bowl, and he has another location with a bowling machine that he can load up and hit as many balls as he wants to. Just trying to fit in and around what he needs to get done, and when and where.

"We're happy to have him around, and can only sing high praises of him in terms of the way he's gone about his business mixed in with the group."

Ged Stokes (right) with son Ben and wife Deborah in Christchurch in 2017. Photo: Getty Images
Ged Stokes (right) with son Ben and wife Deborah in Christchurch in 2017. Photo: Getty Images
Stokes left the England squad for Christchurch during their series with Pakistan last month upon hearing the news of his father. He is no stranger to the garden city, having been born there and living his early years down under.

Stokes left for England aged 12 when his father snagged a job coaching the Workington Town rugby league club in West Cumbria.

Since, his career has been one filled with stardom and success, which all culminated in a World Cup win on English soil last year. The infamous victory over New Zealand in the final was thanks in large part to Stokes' innings, including his unintentional deflection when running between the wickets, which tacked on four extra runs and sent the match to a super over.

The rest is gruelling, excruciating history… at least for Kiwis, but Bell insists there has been no World Cup final-related banter at the club.

"Hasn't been any chat of that… let him just do his thing," he says. "Just a real thrill for the guys to bat against him."

Stokes represented Canterbury domestically at the end of 2017, and while he could end up spending more time in New Zealand in the near future, a return to the domestic scene appears unlikely.

"I think he's just here for family reasons and little bit of personal stuff with his cricket on the side," says Bell. "I can't see that happening this time round."

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