Ben Stokes: Sports Personality winner reflects on his 'amazing' 12 months
Ben Stokes said his cricket heroics in 2019 moved his life forward after a troubled previous year.
The 28-year-old, who helped England win the Cricket World Cup and starred in the Ashes, was voted Sports Personality of the Year on Sunday, 16 months after being found not guilty of affray following a street brawl near a Bristol nightclub.
"2019 will be very hard to top and wipes away anything that happened the year before that," said Stokes. "It is a shame 2020 has to start."
Stokes helped his side to their first 50-over World Cup triumph and then made a remarkable unbeaten 135 in an extraordinary third Ashes Test win against Australia.
"Me and many other people around England will always be able to look back on this year with amazing memories," he told BBC Sport.
"I think we managed to inspire the next generation this year, which is an amazing thing to look back on."
Stokes won the BBC public vote with F1 champion Lewis Hamilton second and athlete Dina Asher-Smith in third place.
Asked to sum up his year in three words, the Durham all-rounder said: "Excitement. Tears. Joy."
England also won the Team of the Year prize, while Jos Buttler breaking the stumps to seal World Cup victory was voted 2019's greatest moment.
Stokes, who is the first cricketer to win the award since Andrew Flintoff in 2005, was on a six-strong shortlist that also included rugby union's Alun Wyn Jones, world heptathlon champion Katarina Johnson-Thompson and footballer Raheem Sterling.
"Just to be nominated is something special in itself. This awards night is to celebrate sport and everyone nominated has managed to do amazing things. It's great to be here representing cricket - the sport I chose to do and love," he added.
"Grassroots is where it all starts. As players ourselves, to inspire other players to do what we do is awesome.
"It's hard work and good fun. You just have to work tirelessly to get there. You are never the complete article but the feeling you get when people come up to you and say 'thank you for the great summer' and inspiring children is such a great feeling."
For Stokes, the century which inspired an unlikely Test win against Australia in a drawn series came six weeks after his heroic display in the World Cup final as England defeated New Zealand in a thrilling super over.
"I think 2019 will always have a special place for fans. It's just been unbelievable to think about what's gone on, with all the drama of the summer," he said.
"I feel like cricket has gone through the roof, which is so good to think that we were a part of that."
In the build-up to his court case, Stokes missed five months of England games, including the winter Ashes series, and admitted it was "a tough time".
But he made a spectacular return to cricket and says he does not regard his new-found fame as a problem.
"I think it comes with the territory and means you are doing quite well, so I won't complain about it," he said.
Wife Clare was alongside him at the show in Aberdeen, while his children Layton, 7, and Libby, 4, were watching with his mother-in-law who was holding a party at home.
"I hope she doesn't break the furniture," he joked.
England's World Cup captain Eoin Morgan said the success of the side had brought a feelgood factor to the game.
"Since 2005 I can't remember a year when cricket has been at the forefront of peoples' thinking and our team has played a big part in that - winning the World Cup and levelling the Ashes," he said.
"There have been a lot of key people who have played a great part in that. From here on in it is a huge platform for us to build on.
"We have created one, if not more, heroes this year and when you do that it tends to catch the imagination of the country. I think this year did.
"Ben's performance at the World Cup, particularly in the final, and his hundred at Headingley was remarkable. I still get that uneasy feeling thinking about that day."
The sport's success comes before it returns to terrestrial television for the first time since 2005 next year with the BBC showing a selection of games in The Hundred.
Morgan, who will captain Lord's-based side London Spirit, said the competition will help grow the game further.
"I think it will be unbelievably entertaining," he said.
"To sell our great game no matter what the format, in this day and age, you have to go for the most entertaining so that would be the vehicle."