Nasser Hussain says England must “look after” Ben Stokes if he ends up playing a part in their Ashes defence against Australia.
Stokes, out of England contention while an investigation into his arrest on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm in September continues, is in talks with Canterbury about featuring in domestic cricket in New Zealand having flown to the country to visit family.
Speculation is growing that Stokes could now figure against Australia, with ex-England wicketkeeper Matt Prior tweeting that New Zealand is the perfect place for the all-rounder to acclimatise.
Hussain, who says that Stokes potentially playing for Canterbury makes “cricketing sense”, insists the 26-year-old must be protected if he receives an Ashes call-up, following his misdemeanour and the “headbutt” incident between Jonny Bairstow and Cameron Bancroft.
“I hope the ECB have planned for when and if he does go to Australia – Ben will need looking after and to bunker down a little bit after the Bairstow and Bancroft stuff,” said Hussain. “Going out to a bar is not the way for Stokes to go, in my opinion, so people need to look after him.
“There was some frenzy on social media on Monday night that he was going to be in Adelaide for the second Test. That has been quashed but when he arrives in New Zealand and, hopefully if you are an England fan, in Australia that is going to be 10-times as much.
“I think it makes cricketing sense [to play in New Zealand] as he hasn’t played for three months. You want him to get sunshine on his back and get back playing cricket. Then, if the police and ECB inquiries go his way, then he is ready to take the field.”
Stokes had been practising in the nets before he headed to New Zealand
Hussain feels Bairstow’s “butt” on Bancroft, which has been played down by both parties, could cause divisions in the England dressing room and has urged the tourists to stick together having slipped 1-0 down in the five-match series following their 10-wicket loss at the Gabba.
“It wasn’t the most sensible thing for [Bairstow] to do, especially after all that happened with Stokes,” added the former England captain. “It has put the team under pressure with talk of curfews.
“There may be people in the team not happy with Jonny – it is not a time to separate and go in different directions. They need to stick together as the character of the squad will be tested.
“You are not taking on 11 individuals, you are taking on a whole nation. You could see that when Steve Smith was giggling in the press conference that Australia were going to make it an issue.”
Cameron Bancroft says there was nothing malicious about Jonny Bairstow's 'headbutt', insisting it was just a 'weird' greeting
The second Ashes Test, a day-nighter in Adelaide, begins on Saturday and Hussain wants England to add more verve to their bowling line-up, suggesting they could call on the pace of Mark Wood, who is currently in action for the Lions against a Queensland XI, or Mason Crane’s leg-spin.
“England had no plan B at the Gabba,” added Hussain. “When the ball went flat it looked a bit one-dimensional and very English. They are lacking a little bit of pace, so I would also be keeping an eye on someone like Wood to see what his pace is like.
“The old Adelaide pitches turned so you could go in with two spinners – it would be a bit of a gamble as Crane hasn’t bowled much on this tour, although he knows Australia and the conditions.
Hussain says the day-night Test at Adelaide offers England a good opportunity to mount a comeback in the Ashes
“I wouldn’t go that way unless it’s a raging turner but if you have five bowlers, then your fifth one is a bit of a freebie, someone who does something different, has an x-factor. So either Crane or someone with pace.”
Hear more from Hussain, as well as Rob Key, Steve Harmison and Mark Butcher on Ashes Debate at 7pm, Tuesday night, on Sky Sports Cricket (channel 404). The show will also be available to download as a podcast.
Ashes Chat: 1st Test
November 28, 2017, 7:00pm
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