Nasser Hussain, a former England captain, believes that all-rounder Ben Stokes’ availability for selection and participation in the side for the gruelling Ashes series, which begins in December, “would give everyone a lift.”
Following his second operation on a fractured left index finger, Stokes has been given the go-ahead by his physician and the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) medical staff to start training. He will go to Australia with the Test specialists and the Lions on November 4.
Stokes had taken an indefinite break to tend to his mental wellbeing and also his injured finger earlier this year, but he recently returned to the nets, fanning speculation that he was ready to return to the England side.
“Stokes is absolutely vital to the England team. His addition to the Ashes squad will give everyone a lift. It is not just his immense contribution with the bat, ball and in the field but his sheer presence,” said Hussain in his column for the Daily Mail on Monday.
“This is great news for (captain) Joe Root, the England team and all cricket supporters who want to see the best take on the best in Australia this winter. But, more importantly, it is great news for Ben Stokes. It means his finger is on the mend and it is also a really good sign that he is in a healthy place mentally because we know the last few months have been a battle for him,” added Hussain.
The hints of an impending return had been there the moment Stokes posted a picture of himself holding a bat.
“I thought, ‘OK, he’s not doing that because he’s thinking of Durham in April. He must have something else in mind’. As he said himself, he is ready for Australia. The only surprise is that Stokes will be there from the start. I thought he would join the team at some point but it is an unexpected bonus that he will be at the Gabba.”
The Ashes is the most difficult tour for England, and Root, who bases his decisions on Stokes and Buttler, would feel more confident coming into the series, which begins on December 8 at The Gabba.
Hussain further added that “Big characters are needed in Australia more than anywhere. You need players who stand up to the Aussies, who can look them in the eye and not take a backward step in a hostile environment. When you have lost nine out of your last 10 Tests in Australia, as England have, they need their biggest character on this tour more than ever.”
(With IANS inputs)