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Stokes opts out of England's T20 World Cup defence

England Test captain to focus on returning to peak fitness after knee surgery to fulfil role as allrounder in all formats

England's chances of retaining the T20 World Cup have suffered a major blow with Ben Stokes opting out of selection for this year's tournament.

The mercurial Stokes will miss June's World Cup in the US and the West Indies to focus on regaining his fitness ahead of England's six Test summer.

England are the defending T20 world champions, having claimed their second title in 2022 by defeating Pakistan in the final at the MCG.

The England and Wales Cricket Board said in a statement on Tuesday that Stokes' primary focus "is to get fully fit to bowl" for the two-Test series against West Indies and Sri Lanka.

The England Test captain's last T20 international for his country was the World Cup final in Melbourne in November 2022 where he scored a match-high unbeaten 52 and hit the winning runs.

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"I'm working hard and focusing on building my bowling fitness back up to fulfil a full role as an allrounder 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 allrounder I want to be for the foreseeable future."

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

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

Stokes bowled just five overs during England's Test tour of India in the final match in Dharamsala // Getty

"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.

"I wish Jos (Buttler), Motty (Matthew Mott) and all the team the best of luck in defending our title."

England will play a four-match T20 series against Pakistan in preparation for the World Cup.

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