England’s preparations for The Ashes series in Australia were rocked after Ben Stokes was embroiled in a street brawl that is currently the subject of a police investigation.
The final decision on whether Stokes will take any part in England’s tour has yet to be made and in the opinion of former Australian captain Ricky Ponting, the absence of England’s leading all-rounder could be decisive in the final outcome of the series that starts with the First Test in Brisbane on November 23rd.
Ponting gave his views to Yahoo Sports on the story that has dominated the build-up to the Ashes series in his role as a BT Sport analyst.
The absence of Ben Stokes from the England squad is a huge blow for so many reasons and I’m not convinced they can find a way to plug the gap he leaves in their team.
Stokes has emerged as one of the outstanding players in world cricket over the last couple of years and when someone that good is taken out of your side, they probably have to find two players to fill the void. One to score the runs and two to take the wickets he could have provided, which is no easy task.
READ MORE: Ashes rivals evenly matched, says Anderson
It affects the whole team. There is extra pressure on the batsmen when they know they don’t have a player of Ben Stokes stature coming in at number six and the bowlers will be asked to step in to a void that they may be tough to fill. James Anderson and Stuart Broad will need to bowl more overs and take more wickets and over a five-match series, the physical and mental pressure that will put on them will take its toll.
Quite simply, Stokes is the one player England needed more than any other to take on Australia on their own patch and the uncertainty over whether he will be able to take part in the series must be making this entire situation even more frustrating for the England management.
I’m sure the England coaching staff would like some clarification on what is going to happen and whether Stokes may be able to play some part in the series, but I saw Trevor Bayliss say the other day that they are planning for the series without Stokes and that is probably the only way they can go about it at the moment.
England coach Trevor Bayliss and their entire dressing room will want to know where this story is going and while they have to prepare for the series with the mindset that Stokes will play no part, they would relish the chance to bring him back into the team.
Every sporting squad has characters that run into trouble at times and it is all a case of handling the situations as they come along. I had a few in my time as Australia captain and they are testing, but players like Stokes are worth their weight in gold when they are at their best and that is why you look to get around these issues.
There were a few rat bags in the Australian team when I went into it for the first time and we liked to enjoy ourselves where and when we could, but when it was time to switch on and train and perform, we were always in the right shape and frame of mind from the first ball of the match.
I don’t know if you can have special rules for certain players in a squad if they are special talents and I’m sure Ben wouldn’t be asking for that. What he will have learned from this experience is the pitfalls of being a high profile international cricketer.
All that is for the future as the immediate concern for England and Stokes is this upcominG Ashes series and whether he will be able to take part. His addition to the England squad now would give them a huge boost and I’m not sure they will be able to plug the gap if he misses the whole series.
Watch The Ashes exclusively live on BT Sport with coverage of the first Test from 11pm, Wednesday 22nd November. Never miss a moment with daily highlights on BT Sport, as well as short highlights available for free every evening from 7pm on bt.com and on the BT Sport App. For more information, visitwww.BT.com/sport