London: Former England all-rounder Ian Botham has hailed current international Ben Stokes' talent and said that he feels the youngster is better than what he was at 24.
Stokes broke Botham's record and scored the quickest Test double-century by an England player in the second game at Cape Town during the ongoing series against South Africa, bringing up his 200 in just 163 balls. He was eventually run out on 258 off 198 deliveries in England's first innings during that drawn Test. It was the quickest ever score of 250 in Test cricket.
Botham held the earlier English record, reaching his double century in 220 balls in the third Test against India at the Oval in 1982.
Stokes's innings was also the second fastest double century in Test cricket history, with former New Zealand opener Nathan Astle heading the list. Astle had reached his double century off 153 balls against England in 2002.
Statistically however, Stokes has a lot to achieve still, to match Botham. By the time Botham was 25 he had taken 14 five-fors and scored six Test hundreds. To top it all he was the skipper of the side. But Botham thinks otherwise.
"Ben Stokes could open the bowling like Fred did and will get more five-fors. He is probably better as a player, full stop. As a player he's probably better than I was at 24, I don't know. He'd certainly be up there," Botham was quoted as saying by the British media.
"What I did was yesterday's news, what he did is today's news."
The 60-year-old said the young all-rounder is getting better with time in all three departments of the game.
"He is not a jack of all trades and master of none. He is actually probably master of the three most important assets you need: batting, bowling and fielding," Botham said.
"His bowling can only get better. He has all the attributes: he has pace; he can swing the ball; he can reverse it; he can bowl orthodox. And he is terrific fielder close to the bat, in the covers or midwicket, backward point, on the boundary."
Botham says he has no resentment that his record was overhauled.
"I held that record for 33 years, so it was about time it got broken," Botham said.
"I enjoyed watching Ben Stokes. I have been a massive fan of his since I first saw him on the international scene. I think he has got tremendous, enormous potential to go all the way," he added.
"That was one of those moments when you can just say 'I was there'. When you think back to Headingley '81, I know there were only about 10,000 people in the ground but I have met three-and-a-half million who say they were. Well, I was there for Ben Stokes."