England Test captain Ben Stokes will be available only as a specialist batter for Chennai Super Kings in the early stages of the Indian Premier League 2023.
The star all-rounder, who was picked by the four-time IPL champions for Rs. 16.25 crore during the auction last December, arrived in India last week and has been training for the upcoming season starting March 31.
According to ESPNCricinfo, Stokes, who has played for Rajasthan Royals and Rising Pune Supergiant in the past, will likely play as a specialist batter initially to manage his knee injury, for which he has been administered cortisone shots -- an anti-inflammation injection.
The 31-year-old has been hampered by recurring injuries to his left knee, with the most recent flare-up happening during England's tour of New Zealand. Stokes bowled only nine overs across two Tests and batted with a lot of discomfort on the final day of the second Test in Wellington.
Terming the injury "very frustrating", Stokes said he hoped to "get into a position that I feel like I don't have to worry about my knee anymore" with England set to host Australia for the Ashes this year in June.
CSK batting coach Michael Hussey confirmed Stokes might not bowl at the start of the IPL.
"My understanding is he's ready to go as a batsman from the start. 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," said Hussey.
"The physios from Chennai (CSK) and ECB (England and Wales Cricket Board) 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," Hussey added.
With the home-and-away format returning in IPL 2023, CSK are set to play in front of their fans at the Chinnaswamy Stadium. Hussey hoped the setup brings the best out of Stokes.
"The ground is amazing -- new stands up, full capacity. 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," Hussey said.
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 all-rounders is really important."