Ben Stokes is likely to play as a specialist batter at the start of the 2023 IPL and has had a cortisone injection in order to manage an injury to his left knee, ESPNcricinfo understands.
Stokes, who was signed for INR 16.25 crore (US$ 1.9 million approx. at the time) as Chennai Super Kings' costliest signing in an auction, arrived in India last week and has been training with his new team-mates ahead of their season opener in Ahmedabad on Friday night, against defending champions Gujarat Titans.
He has managed recurring injuries in his left knee over a number of years, but suffered a flare-up on England's tour to New Zealand last month, bowling only nine overs across two Tests and batting through clear physical discomfort on the final day of the series in Wellington.
Stokes admitted the injury had been "very frustrating" at the end of the tour, but said that the IPL would represent an opportunity to "get myself into a position that I feel like I don't have to worry about my knee anymore" ahead of this summer's Ashes, which starts on June 16.
He also confirmed he has a specific diagnosis of the issue, which he declined to reveal publicly. ESPNcricinfo understands that a subsequent scan on the knee came back clear, but Stokes has taken a cortisone injection - a common anti-inflammatory injection which reduces swelling - ahead of the IPL.
"My understanding is he's ready to go as a batsman from the start," Mike Hussey, Super Kings' batting coach, told ESPNcricinfo and PA news. "The bowling might be wait and see. I know he had his first very light bowl yesterday [Sunday] since he had his injections in his knee.
"The physios from Chennai and the ECB are working pretty closely together. My understanding is he won't be bowling much at all in the first few games of the tournament… it might be a few weeks. I'm not 100% sure, [but we will] hopefully get him bowling at some stage in the tournament."
Brendon McCullum, England's coach, has publicly put his faith in the franchise's "very good medical team" and Stokes' own ability to "get right for the big moments". He said after their tour to New Zealand that he would be in touch with Stephen Fleming, Super Kings' head coach, and his own former international team-mate.
Stokes has previously indicated that he will consider returning early from the IPL in order to prepare for England's Test against Ireland at Lord's from June 1 - four days after the IPL final - and has already spoken to Hussey about his excitement for the Ashes series that follows, his first as England's captain.
"From an Australian perspective, I'm going to hope he bowls 20 or 30 overs in the nets," Hussey said, laughing. "We'll be running him into the ground and I'll be making sure he does extra weight sessions and run-throughs to put as much pressure on that body… I'm joking, obviously.
"I want a fit Ben Stokes playing his best cricket at the Ashes. This franchise is very professional, works very closely with all the national boards, and I know our physio has already been working with the ECB physios. I want to see his best cricket at the Ashes; I want both teams at their best, going hard at it, and I think it will be an unbelievable series to watch."
Hussey added that Stokes had been "hitting the ball really well" since arriving in India, predicting that he would be "huge" to the franchise's bid to reach the playoffs, "particularly if we can get him bowling… having those allrounders is really important".
Super Kings will play their first home game since 2019 on April 3 as the IPL returns to a full home-and-away season. "The ground is amazing: new stands up, full capacity," Hussey said. "The first home game, the atmosphere is going to be out of this world.
"I can't wait - and I'm sure Stokesy is going to absolutely love it. That's the thing with those big players, they generally like a big stage and perform their best on it. Once he gets out there in Chepauk Stadium in front of an unbelievably loud crowd, I hope it's going to bring out the best in him."