It is looking increasingly likely that England will be without all-rounder Ben Stokes for the Ashes and with the situation as it is, I wouldn’t be in favour of him going to Australia.
The suggestion is that England cricket bosses will withdraw Stokes, who is suspended from international duty until further notice following his arrest on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm, if he remains under police investigation when the tour begins.
It remains unknown whether criminal proceedings will have been concluded by the time England fly to Australia on 28 October, and it would be very difficult for him to travel with all this hanging over his head.
If the 26-year-old, who was named England’s Test vice-captain in February, did go, he would be on the back page of every newspaper, cameras would be following him everywhere and Australian supporters would be in his face trying to get a rise out of him.
It wouldn’t be a very pleasant trip for Stokes. He’s strong enough to cope on the field, but off the field could be tricky. Such a scenario would also take a lot of attention away from the England team and cause an unnecessary distraction.
England’s director of cricket Andrew Strauss is a huge believer in the team coming first and no individual stealing the limelight or being a story, particularly when it’s a negative one, which takes focus away from the group.
Hopefully, the police and England and Wales Cricket Board investigations into Stokes will show that he is not in the wrong as much as some people may think. However, with what we know at the moment, it would be incredibly hard for Stokes to concentrate wholeheartedly on cricket and the job at hand.
While England have their selection problems, so do Australia. It was confirmed yesterday that right-arm seamer James Pattinson has been ruled out of the Ashes following a recurrence of a back injury.
Pattinson, who has taken 70 wickets in 17 Tests, was left out of Australia’s tour to Bangladesh in September due to a stress fracture to his lower back and will now take an indefinite break from bowling.
Being unable to call upon Pattinson is a massive loss for Australia. Last week I was with my former Hampshire team-mate Michael Lumb, who played with Pattinson at Nottinghamshire this summer, and he said he’s probably the best overseas bowler he’s seen in his career.
The 27-year-old has been bowling absolute rockets by all accounts – 93 and 94mph – and Michael was saying that if he was to bowl like that in the Ashes, on bouncy pitches, then he would cause some serious problems.
Pattinson is also no slouch with the bat so England can be thankful someone who is seriously quick, is capable of spoiling parties and can scare batsmen is unavailable.
England have their issues with Stokes and injuries, which have prevented the likes of Toby Roland-Jones being named in their squad, but Australia too are not in the finest fettle.