LONDON, Nov 6, (Agencies): The uncertainty surrounding the fate of suspended all-rounder Ben Stokes is hampering England’s preparations for the upcoming Ashes series in Australia, former skipper Andrew Strauss has said.
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) suspended vice-captain Stokes pending an investigation into an incident outside a Bristol nightclub in September for which he was arrested on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm.
He was released without charge but remains under police investigation.
England have arrived in Australia without Stokes, who is considered vital to their hopes of retaining the Ashes following their 3-2 victory in 2015.
The series begins at the Gabba in Brisbane on Nov 23 with the fifth and final test in Sydney from Jan 4
“The situation, in a word, is complicated,” ECB director of cricket Strauss told the BBC.
“There’s two different potential disciplinary procedures he has to go through, one is the ECB’s internal one and the other is any potential police action.
“Until we know more from the police, it’s very hard for us to put a timeline on anything.
“What we all want is clarity on what that situation is and how much cricket he will be missing for England,” the 40-year-old said. “We’re keen to get into that and move this forward but we’re in the hands of the police.
“Ben has been and is developing into a world-class cricketer. The fact he’s not out there at the moment is a blow to the England team.”
Strauss is the last captain to lead England to an Ashes win in Australia when they beat the hosts 3-1 in 2010-11. Their last trip to Australia four years ago was nothing short of a disaster as they suffered a humiliating 5-0 whitewash.
However, Strauss said that stinging defeat would motivate the current side.
“I was involved in a 5-0 drubbing in 2006 and I used that as a very strong base for retribution,” Strauss added.
“I’m sure the guys who were there last time and suffered the chastening defeat at the hands of Mitchell Johnson will want to put that right.”
Meanwhile, veteran pace spearhead James Anderson said Monday he was open to replacing suspended Ben Stokes as England vice-captain for the coming Ashes Test series.
Joe Root’s squad left home without their usual deputy skipper who is awaiting the outcome of a police probe into his involvement in a brawl outside a Bristol nightclub on September 25.
The England and Wales Cricket Board have not yet ruled him out of the series, which starts with the first Test in Brisbane on November 23.
Anderson told reporters assuming the vice-captaincy was “not something I have really thought about to be honest”.
But when questioned on whether he would decline if asked to fill the role, he replied: “Of course not, I wouldn’t.”
“Certainly over the past few years I have seen my role in the team as being a leader, especially with the young bowlers coming in, I try and help out where I can,” Anderson added.
The 35-year-old, who is England’s all-time leading wicket-taker with 506 in 129 Tests, said he already fulfils a leadership role in the team with support from former skipper Alastair Cook and fast bowler Stuart Broad.
“That is part and parcel as a senior player who has played over 100 Tests, to be a leader,” he said.
“Myself and Stuart try and lead the bowling attack, Alastair has been captain. We have a nice leadership group.
“My experience as a senior player is to bring experience to the group. Myself, Alastair, Stuart Broad all bring experience to the group and our job is to help out where we can.
“There’s a lot of players on this tour that haven’t played an Ashes series or toured Australia. Our job is to help out.”
Anderson captured four for 37 in his first bowling stint of the tour against a Western Australian XI in Perth over the weekend.
He said he didn’t have much rhythm or swing with the new ball.
“But I felt I got better as the day wore on and I think most of the bowlers would say the same,” he added.
England arrived in Adelaide on Monday for a four-day day-night tour game starting on Wednesday against a Cricket Australia XI.
The match offers them the chance to familiarise themselves with the conditions ahead of the day-night second Test — the first Ashes game to be played under lights.