English ral­ly­ing be­hind Stokes

NT News - - SPORT - BEN HORNE

JIMMY An­der­son has re­vealed how Eng­land team­mates will use Ben Stokes’ wedding as a chance to rally be­hind the trou­bled star as the play­ing group seeks an ur­gent res­o­lu­tion to the as­sault saga threat­en­ing to de­rail their Ashes cam­paign.

The Eng­land fast bowl­ing leader ad­mits Stokes needs the sup­port of those clos­est to him as he pre­pares to tie the knot with long-term part­ner Clare Rat­cliffe to­day in the midst of the most tur­bu­lent pe­riod of his life.

How­ever, de­spite their stoic loy­alty to the Eng­land vice­cap­tain, An­der­son has made it clear that the play­ing group would like the ECB to make a fi­nal and ab­so­lute call on Stokes and his Ashes avail­abil­ity as soon as pos­si­ble.

An­der­son said it was now up to the team to use the dev­as­tat­ing set­back to gal­vanise them for the huge task that awaits them in Aus­tralia, but first, they are de­ter­mined to be there for Stokes in his hour of need.

“I think the lads are get­ting around him. He’s get­ting mar­ried this week and there will be many of the boys there,” An­der­son said.

“I guess he needs mates around him and that’s what he’ll have there. Friends and fam­ily sup­port­ing him. That’s what he needs.”

An­der­son said the two weeks be­tween now and when the team boards the plane for Aus­tralia on Oc­to­ber 28 is ab­so­lutely crit­i­cal to Eng­land’s Ashes hopes, with a se­ries of hon­esty ses­sions to de­ter­mine whether they’re go­ing to use Stokes’ predica­ment as an ex­cuse or an in­spi­ra­tion.

Stokes’ agent overnight stated that his client will “make pub­lic his full ex­pla­na­tion and ev­i­dence” on the al­leged Bris­tol street fight that has plunged Eng­land cricket into cri­sis, but only when the time is right.

At the moment the ECB has said Stokes won’t fly with the team on Oc­to­ber 28 but other than that they have re­fused to rule out the prospect of him still par­tak­ing in the Ashes which launch on Novem­ber 23 at the Gabba, with po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tions on­go­ing.

An­der­son de­clared the play­ers would like to see their bosses make the big call one way or an­other now, for the sake of team fo­cus.

“Well yeah, of course, but I think that’s out of our hands as play­ers. We can’t do any­thing about that,” he said.

“All we can do as the guys who are go­ing to be on that plane on the 28th of Oc­to­ber is just re­ally fo­cus on how we’re go­ing to get our­selves ready for that first Test match.

“Whether it’s be­ing an in­di­vid­ual and get our skills in the right place, or as a team we’re meet­ing up a cou­ple of times be­fore we go away.

“It’s re­ally (about) gal­vanis­ing as a group and get­ting our head in the right place to be just ab­so­lutely spot on when that first Test match comes around … it’s about win­ning and play­ing well.”

When asked about the mon­u­men­tal task of hav­ing to beat Aus­tralia on their own turf, most likely with­out the world’s No.1 all-rounder and clear point of dif­fer­ence be­tween the two sides, An­der­son gave an in­di­ca­tion that Eng­land has al­ready men­tally pre­pared for life with­out Stokes.

Blow­back from Aus­tralian crowds is the least of his wor­ries.

“He’s (Stokes) ob­vi­ously a big player for us. He has been for the last two years,” An­der­son said.

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