During a fielding drill before England’s final warm-up against Pakistan at Brisbane on Monday, Topley suffered ligament damage to his left ankle after stepping on a padded cushion and landing awkwardly.
The 6ft 7in left-arm seamer had been set for a pivotal role in Australia but will now return home to the UK after England’s tournament opener against Afghanistan at Perth on Saturday.
It is a cruel blow and – according to Stokes – an entirely avoidable one, for a player who has bounced back from multiple stress fractures in his back that threatened to derail his career.
Commonly referred to as ‘Toblerones’ due to their triangular prism shapes, the foam sponges present an advertising opportunity and have become widespread instead of a traditional rope around the ground.
But as they measure around 20cm in height and width, England Test captain Stokes feels the dimensions could be addressed to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.
He said: “It’s stupid. Unfortunately, it’s taken one of our players to be ruled out of the World Cup (to make people notice).
“I’m pretty sure it’s something they can look at but you know what it’s like – everybody wants to get their names on somewhere.
“But you look at player safety and the fact he’s stood on it and it’s ruptured ligaments and now he’s out of the World Cup – it should be looked at. (But) I’m devastated for him.
“We are all just absolutely gutted for him that he’s missed out on this World Cup because he would have been one of the first names on the team sheet.”
It is understood the England and Wales Cricket Board is not intending to raise the issue to the International Cricket Council.
England white-ball captain Jos Buttler told BBC Sport: “We practice around the boundary a lot to try and get used to it. I don’t see it as any more than a freak accident.”
Stokes has this month returned to England’s T20 set-up, having been absent in the format since March 2021, and he has been given additional responsibility of batting at number four in the tournament.
He missed last year’s World Cup, prioritising his mental health and rehabilitation from a badly broken finger, so his most recent experience in this competition was his last over in the 2016 final, when Carlos Brathwaite unforgettably flogged four successive sixes to secure an unlikely West Indies win.
Asked whether he reflects on what happened six years ago, Stokes said: “No, no. That’s gone. It was such a long time ago. I never let that kind of stuff eat me up.
“I came here not knowing where I was going to fit into the squad and then Jos made it clear the role I will be playing throughout the World Cup. He just said come in, bat four and bowl some overs.
“I’ve gone with the flow to be honest. I think coming back into the squad after being away from it for a while, it’s exciting.
“T20 cricket is completely different, full of energy, so you just need to practice more because it’s just such a different type of cricket.
T20 cricket is completely different, full of energy, so you just need to practice more because it’s just such a different type of cricket— Ben Stokes
“I’ve been putting some hard yards in and training, getting used to the flow and feel of the game and getting the hours under my belt.”
England are seeking to unify cricket’s two limited-overs World Cups, with Stokes talismanic in their 2019 50-over success, but the all-rounder insisted doing the double is not the prime motivation.
“The motivation is just to win this one and move on to the next one,” Stokes added.
“Jos has been fantastic at leading this group of cricketers and we understand this is a new era and we shouldn’t play to anyone’s expectations of what’s happened in the past.”