Ben Stokes added to England's Test squad for upcoming Ashes tour of Australia
Ben Stokes had a break from cricket to prioritise his mental wellbeing and recover from a finger injury; all-rounder now set to head to Australia on November 4 ahead of the Ashes; "I wasn't in a good place and I'm not afraid to admit it," admits Stokes
Last Updated: 25/10/21 5:39pm
Ben Stokes has been added to England's Ashes squad after declaring himself ready to play competitive cricket again.
The all-rounder was initially unavailable when England named the touring group for Australia, having spent the past three months on an indefinite hiatus to allow a finger injury to heal as well as prioritise his mental health.
However, after having a second surgery on his left index finger earlier this month, Stokes has filmed himself back in the nets batting and bowling, fuelling speculation of an Ashes return, which was confirmed on Monday morning.
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"I had a break to prioritise my mental wellbeing and I got my finger sorted," Stokes said. "I am looking forward to seeing my mates and being on the field with them. I'm ready for Australia."
Stokes later wrote in his column for The Mirror: "I'm buzzing for the Ashes. Just buzzing. To be able to confirm to Joe Root that I would be available to join the tour from the start after my second successful surgery on my finger was a great moment.
"He said it was great to hear me sounding so well and that is the truth of it. I feel much better about everything, from my finger to my mental wellbeing. I know I can focus once again on playing my best cricket Down Under this winter.
"I had been struggling with bubble life and events off the field. I don't want anyone to feel the way I did, because I wasn't in a good place and I'm not afraid to admit it. I was in a real dark place and having some difficult thoughts.
"I was always one of those people who wouldn't talk about how they are feeling and just keep it internal and crack on. I now realise talking is such a powerful thing and it has completely changed me."
Stokes skipped the summer's marquee Test series against India and is also a notable absentee from the ongoing T20 World Cup.
After fracturing his finger at the Indian Premier League in April, necessitating surgery, Stokes was still struggling with lingering discomfort in the area when he aborted a tentative comeback in July.
He had a second operation on October 4 to remove two screws and scar tissue and was given the all-clear by his consultant and the England and Wales Cricket Board medical team to resume training.
Stokes will head to Australia alongside the Test specialists and the supplementary Lions group on November 4.
England Test Squad for Ashes Tour of Australia 2021-22
Joe Root (c), James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Haseeb Hameed, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.
Hussain: 'Talismanic' Stokes is virtually irreplaceable
Sky Sports' Nasser Hussain said England will benefit enormously from having the "talismanic" Stokes in their side in Australia.
"It's great news," Hussain told Sky Sports News. "Ben Stokes is virtually irreplaceable in any format; he is one of the great all-rounders in cricket.
"It is great news for Ben Stokes physically, with his finger, but more important, mentally. It just shows that having taken a break out of the game he is in a better place mentally.
"Obviously that will have to be looked after in the weeks and months ahead, but it's great news that England have their talismanic cricketer back in the side."
Hussain is expecting Stokes to be named in the line-up at the first time of asking when England take on Australia in the opening Test on December 8.
"It would be like leaving Ian Botham out or something like that," Hussain said of the prospect of not playing Stokes.
"You have to remember what Stokes did at Headingley last time we were lucky to be there. I was lucky to commentate that time.
"That was one of the greatest innings I have ever seen by any cricketer in Test match cricket. He won that Test match off his own bat, it was truly remarkable the scenes at Headingley and he is that type of cricketer.
"He is the type of cricketer you need against Australia as well, someone to look them in the face and take them on. He is that type of cricketer, you think of Botham, you think of Kevin Pietersen. They (Australia) like to go after players that back down - Stokes definitely won't do that.
"If he's fit and available Stokes plays, and all the other pieces of the jigsaw just fall into place after that."
Broad: I'm fit and firing
England bowler Stuart Broad suffered a calf injury in the build-up to the second Test of England's summer series against India, which resulted in him missing the remainder of the series, but has declared himself "fit and firing" ahead of the Ashes.
With fast-bowling duo Jofra Archer and Olly Stone already ruled out of the tour by injury, Broad's fitness is crucial in providing captain Joe Root with options for the tour.
The first Test in Brisbane would be Broad's 150th Test match, with the Nottinghamshire seamer looking to add to his tally of 524 wickets.
Asked about his condition, Broad said: "Yeah, all fit and firing.
"I've been back bowling two weeks now. Building my workloads up, building my fitness up, ready for what's a hugely exciting winter for the red-ball team.
"It's going to be quite an unpredictable series I think. Australia just haven't played any cricket. I think they've played four Tests in the last year. Players are going to be going in without a lot of match time and I think that will be exciting to watch."
'I'd love to dominate Warner again'
Broad dominated Australia batsman David Warner during the last Ashes in 2019, dismissing the opener seven times in 10 innings.
While Broad accepts that keeping Warner quiet in English conditions was perhaps an easier task than he will face this winter, the England bowler says he is preparing to try to maintain a similar influence.
"We've had some great battles over the years, going back to 2013," Broad said.
"As an England opening bowler you want to target the opening batters and the top three.
"We know what a key player he is for Australia and of course I'd love to get him out and have the sort of influence I did in 2019 on him, but I'm very aware the challenge of bowling in Australia is pretty different to the challenge of bowling in England, but I am prepping myself for that."