In an unambiguous message to Ben Stokes, former England captain Nasser Hussain has encouraged the incoming Ashes skipper to maintain transparency about his bowling potential, given his injury troubles.
With a drought of Ashes victories since 2015, England is slated to play host to the five-match series starting June 16 at Edgbaston, Birmingham.
Stokes has been grappling with knee-related difficulties since February during the England tour of New Zealand. Despite only participating in two matches for the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in the Indian Premier League (IPL), he emerged victorious. While he appeared fit during training sessions, Stokes abstained from both batting and bowling in England's one-off Test against Ireland, and seemed to grapple with discomfort while fielding.
Hussain, in a recent Daily Mail column, expressed optimism about Stokes' performance in the upcoming Edgbaston Test, praising his pain-free appearance and strong form during England's training. Hussain also mentioned that the IPL's judicious fitness approach might have been beneficial to Stokes.
Hussain penned, "Stokes has to be honest. If he can't bowl in a Test, he will have to tell England and they may have to then change the balance of the side. But that does become incredibly tricky because Stokes is two cricketers and with the captaincy, he is now three cricketers."
He commended Stokes' fielding prowess and expressed his belief that Stokes would maintain his performance standard at Edgbaston - taking to bowling when necessary.
However, Hussain highlighted concerns about Stokes' difficulty in lateral movements during fielding, visible during the Ireland Test. Particularly troubling was an instance when Stokes caught Curtis Campher, the Irish all-rounder, causing visible discomfort.
In the previous year, Stokes made significant contributions, scoring 870 runs and claiming 26 wickets in 15 Tests, with his best being 4 for 33.
In other news, Moeen Ali, another England all-rounder who had previously retired from Tests, made a surprising return to the format ahead of the Ashes, stepping in for injured spinner Jack Leach.
It appears this decision was a collaborative call between England head coach Brendon McCullum, captain Stokes, and the managing director of England men's cricket, Rob Key. England, instead of opting for Rehan Ahmed of Leicestershire and Surrey's Will Jacks or other domestic replacements like Liam Dawson, enticed Moeen out of retirement.
Moeen's return bolsters England's batting lineup. Interestingly, the same No. 7-8 combination featuring Jonny Bairstow and Moeen that challenged Australia in 2019 is set to take the field in the first Test.