Pacer Mitchell Starc believes England can pose a challenge in the upcoming Ashes even if star all-rounder Ben Stokes is not in the squad that travels to Australia in November.
Stokes’ role in the upcoming Ashes series has come under serious doubt after the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) announced that he and teammate Alex Hales will not be considered for selection in the international matches until further notice.
The Test vice-captain, however, was named in England’s Ashes squad, despite injuring his hand in the incident that led to his arrest in Bristol on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm.
The 26-year-old Durham all-rounder was released without charge but remains under police investigation.
“I’m sure they can [challenge without Stokes],” ESPNcricinfo quoted Starc as saying.
The left-arm pacer said Stokes greatly aided England’s balance but was not their only key player.
“They’ve got those experienced guys up the top, he probably makes their team a bit more balanced but he’s not the be all and end all of their team. There’s plenty of other guys we need to worry about, some experienced bowlers, some experienced batsmen up the top, they bat quite deep as well when you’ve got Moeen Ali coming in at No. 8 and [Chris] Woakes at No. 9,” he said.
The 27-year-old pacer further said Stokes’s absence, if at all, would be a big blow to England in the five-Test series but would be good for Australia.
“I think everyone in world cricket knows how good Ben is, it’s yet to be seen whether he’s on a plane. If he does come then we know how good a player he is and how he makes that team much more balanced. So if he’s not there it’s a big blow for them, good for us, but I’m sure we’ll assess that when they get on a plane,” Starc said.
“It’s not for us to worry about, I’m sure they’ll deal with it whichever way they choose, whether he’s a part of the group or not, but for us it’s getting some good cricket leading into the summer and hopefully playing some decent cricket heading into that Test selection,” he added.
Although England are Ashes holders, they have lost two out of their past three tours Down Under by 0-5.
England will now be desperate to hit the ground running when the two sides meet at the Gabba in Brisbane on November 23.