The first ball of the 2017-2018 Ashes will go underway within two weeks at the Gabba, Brisbane. But, before the start of the first Test of the five-match series questions are being raised whether captain Joe Root’s side are capable of retaining the Ashes without the help of vice-captain Ben Stokes. With the best all-rounder of the time Stokes was allegedly involved in a street fight and now facing a lawsuit for bringing bodily harm to a person outside of the Bristol nightclub on September 25 England are yet to find a suitable replacement for him.
Since Stokes has been suspended by England and Wales Cricket Body (ECB) for his misconduct, he is still in England fighting the legal charges at the court. After his unavailability for the Ashes has become certain former West Indies cricketer Viv Richards raised a serious question about England’s chances in the Ashes Down Under without the service of lively Ben Stokes.
However, this is not the first time England will resume their Ashes campaign as an underdog since they were never favourites to win the Ashes. So, nobody expects that England will do well even Stokes, who smashed six Test hundreds and is set to complete his 100 wickets haul, play the Ashes in Australia.
But, before Stokes got involved in a street brawl former England skipper Michael Vaughan even dreamt big. While speaking to BCC Radio 5 in September, before Stokes was arrested on suspicion of causing bodily harm, Vaughn predicted a brighter prospect for England in the Ashes. He said that ‘freak’ Stokes will bring the Ashes at home. Vaughan’s trust on Stokes was boosted after the later claimed six wickets conceding 22 wickets against West Indies at the Lord’s.
So, familiar results in Australia are being expected. Demoralising defeats in Australia have become too familiar for English fans, and now the Stokes saga left England with no option but to fill the void with another player. For many this is just an ominous signal for England even before the series goes underway.
Tom Curran replaces Finn to join England Ashes squad
Alongside, Stokes England lost his replacement Steve Finn, who has been ruled out from the entire tour due to knee injury, and another key all-rounder Moeen Ali has also been ruled out from first two Tests due to a side strain. Now, it is needless to say England will find it difficult to find Stokes’ replacement.
In Stokes’ absence, ECB has already named swing king James Anderson as the deputy to captain Joe Root, another rookie for the tour of Australia. It is expected that in Stokes’ absence four-match old limited over bowler Tom Curran joined the England squad in Australia after Finn picked up an injury.
Though, England have a good pace bowling attack comprised of Stuart Broad and James Anderson the main con concern for the visiting side will be batting. Broad citing Stokes’ importance in the team said, ‘In my opinion, he’s been a leader within the changing room over the last 18 months – he’s characteristics are instilled in the team anyway, whether he’s on the pitch or not,’ the fast bowler said. ‘His competitive side, the way he puts his arm around the players, will still be there if Stokes the cricketer isn’t. What he’s given to the team will stay with the team and will stand us in good stead in Australia.’
With opener Alastair Cook has always been an unpredictable bloke on Australia soil Root will be the prime target of Australian bowlers, who are currently warming up at the Sheffield Shield, as a result, England may have to face tough time Down Under.
Meanwhile, Australia will look for a revenge for their humiliating defeat to the hosts England in 2015 Ashes. However, they also have issues as their bowling spearhead Mitchell Starc will get back to action after a long time and Steve Smith’s side has a few issues to sort out which may help England. The hosts’ opening batsman Matthew Renshaw has been struggling to get his mojo back to in the domestic tournament. In the mean time, Australia have to sort out the issue of wicket-keeper as Matthew Wade failed to do well with the willow in hand and his glovework has also been severely criticized.
So, even after Stokes’ unavailability, England may take a chance in the series if they play the series with a positive mindset since Ashes has always been a mind game.