English rallying behind Stokes
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.