:England all-rounder Ben Stokes has opted out of selection for this year’s Twenty20 World Cup to focus on regaining his fitness ahead of the summer’s test fixtures, the country’s cricket board (ECB) said in a statement on Tuesday.

England are the defending T20 World Cup champions, having claimed their second title in 2022 in Australia.

The ECB added that Stokes’s primary focus “is to get fully fit to bowl” for the upcoming test series against West Indies and Sri Lanka.

England’s test captain Stokes last played a T20 international for England in the World Cup final in November 2022.

“I’m working hard and focusing on building my bowling fitness back up to fulfil a full role as an all-rounder in all formats of cricket,” Stokes said in a statement.

“Opting out of the IPL and the World Cup will hopefully be a sacrifice that allows me to be the all-rounder I want to be for the foreseeable future.

In November, Stokes underwent surgery for a knee issue which hampered his ability to bowl regularly.

The 32-year-old bowled just five overs during England’s 4-1 series defeat to India last month.

“The recent test tour of India highlighted how far behind I was from a bowling point of view after my knee surgery and nine months without bowling,” Stokes said.

“I’m looking forward to playing for Durham in the County Championship before the start of our test summer.”

England will play a four-match T20 series against Pakistan in preparation for the World Cup, which will be held in the West Indies and the United States in June.

They then play group matches against Scotland, Australia, Oman and Namibia before the Super 8s and knockout stages.

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