England ready for Ashes without Stokes


LONDON: England captain Joe Root said on Friday his side were prepared to be without star all-rounder Ben Stokes for the whole of their upcoming Ashes tour of Australia.
Stokes, England’s vice-captain, will not fly out with the rest of the squad on Saturday, having been suspended from international duty following an incident outside a Bristol nightclub in September.
The Durham ace remains under investigation after being arrested on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm. Stokes and England are still waiting to discover if he will face criminal charges.
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has yet to rule him out of the five-Test series, which starts in Brisbane on Nov 23, but he is not currently available for selection.
“We’ve got to make sure we plan and prepare as a squad and look to approach it as if this is our team going out there for the tour,” Root told reporters at Lord’s on Friday.
Ashes-holders England have yet to name a replacement vice-captain but Root said there was no need to rush that decision.
“We will have to sit down and chat about that,” said the Yorkshire batsman. “It’s something that’s ongoing and over the course of the next few weeks we’ll come to a decision.” Root added neither he nor anyone else in the England hierarchy had received an indication as to whether Stokes would face criminal charges.
“We don’t really know how long things are going to take and I think we’ve just got to sit tight and wait,” Root said.
England have suffered humiliating 5-0 series defeats on two of their last three Ashes tours of Australia, although they did enjoy a 3-1 triumph in 2010-11.
Many pundits believe that without Stokes they have no chance this time around, but Root insisted, “He is a fine player but I see a squad of players that’s more than capable of going over there and doing something really special.”
Drinking culture
Meanwhile, Root denied England had a drinking culture as he vowed there would be no repeat of the incident that had jeopardised Stokes’s participation in the Ashes.
“We know that what’s happened hasn’t been good enough and we are determined to get that right,” he said. “I don’t think there’s a drinking culture in our side… We are grown men, we know how to behave and we’ll make sure we conduct ourselves well on this tour.”
Leading batsman
Root is now one of the world’s leading batsmen, having scored more than 5,000 runs in 60 Tests at an average of 53.76 including 13 hundreds.
But his previous Ashes tour, in 2013-14 ended with him being dropped for the Sydney finale after he’d managed a meagre 192 runs in four previous Tests at a lowly average of 27.42.
“It’s a point I want to prove” said Root of batting well in Australia. “I’m obviously a very different player now to what I was last time we were there and that excites me,” added Root, who together with former captain Alastair Cook is one of two mainstays in an otherwise frail-looking England top order.
“That’s a really good incentive for me to get off to a good start personally with my batting, but more importantly set the tone and lead from the front with weight of runs.”
Since the Second World War, only five England captains – two Yorkshiremen in Len Hutton (1954-55) and Ray Illingworth, (1970-71, who was also captaining Midlands county Leicestershire at the time) and a trio of Middlesex skippers in Mike Brearley (1978-79), Mike Gatting (1986-87) and Andrew Strauss (2010-11) – have led England to Ashes series glory in Australia.
But an undaunted Root said, “It’s the pinnacle of Test cricket for an Englishman to go to Australia and have the opportunity to win – I don’t think there’s much more that you need to motivate yourself as a player and a captain.”