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REUTERS - England all-rounder Ben Stokes says batting tips from Australia captain and IPL team mate Steve Smith was key to helping him improve as a player following a hugely successful debut season in the lucrative Indian Twenty20 tournament.
Stokes was named the league's Most Valuable Player after the tournament ended on Sunday with his 12 wickets and 316 runs in 12 games helping the Rising Pune Supergiant to reach the final before he returned to England for international duty.
"I felt like my game has got a lot better, from being able to work with the best players around the world and specialist coaches in that format," Stokes told British media as he continues preparations for next month's Champions Trophy.
"My bowling has gone up another level, working with Eric Simons, from South Africa (Pune's bowling coach). Being able to work on those skills for six weeks was a really good thing."
Stokes, however, singled out Pune captain Smith, who he will line up against in the Ashes later this year, for praise after the pair practiced together.
"I remember doing a batting session with him, with some power-hitting towards the end," Stokes said.
"The guy I'll actually be playing against in the Ashes was helping me, something you'd never fathom when we're playing against each other. The IPL is probably the only place where you would get that."
Stokes did not play in the IPL final, which Pune lost to the Mumbai Indians by one run, as he was recalled to the England squad for a three-match one-day international series against South Africa starting on May 24.
Reporting by Aditi Prakash in Bengaluru; Editing by John O'Brien