England coach Brendon McCullum has long been convinced of this. IPL won’t get worse Ben Stokesknee injury or preventing him from writing his own Ashes “script” this summer.
The dust of one of the most remarkable matches in long history has barely settled. cricket test – A An exciting lap defeat by New Zealandn Wellington – but the focus is already on the upcoming Australian visit.
The highly anticipated series kicks off in Edgbaston in less than four months, with revived England trying to reclaim the vase for the first time since 2015, and Stokes’ troubled left knee is already a cause for concern.
He could barely bowl in New Zealand, contributing to just nine extras in two Tests, and was in visibly pained batting during the dramatic five-day chase at Basin Reserve.
Stokes’ importance as a totemic leader of the side cannot be overstated – he has 10 wins in 12 matches despite his setback this week – but he has already confirmed he will honor his £1.6m deal. Chennai Super Kings later this month, he will spend up to eight weeks with the franchise.
McCullum was due to play golf with fellow Kiwi and current CSK head coach Stephen Fleming on Wednesday, with Stokes’ well-being on the agenda.
“I have a tee time with Flem, so I’ll talk to him and make sure he keeps an eye on the captain,” McCullum said.
“He sees the big picture, so I have no concerns that Ben will be completely looked after. I also believe Ashes is the script the captain was waiting to write, so it will be sweet. I don’t have any worries.
“I don’t think he put it in jeopardy. I know the Chennai setup, I played for that team and they are excellent at taking care of the players. They have a very good medical team.
“The captain has a strong mind and knows how to catch up with the big moments. That’s his life, isn’t it?
“Actually, I’m looking forward to him playing without the captain and having the opportunity to play cricket without thinking about others. When he comes back and takes us to the Ashes campaign, he’ll get some teeth and I think we’ll be fine.
McCullum was in a cheery mood looking back at a two-game streak with home country draw, echoing Stokes who appreciated the unforgettable result at Wellington despite the result.
“I actually thought it was epic,” he said.
“I know we came out on the wrong side – or the losing side – but I think there will be millions – tens of millions – of people around the world who sit back and enjoy that Test match. I know we will always be judged by our results, but I think we achieved quite a bit over the course of the series.
“We now have the opportunity to really start planning and turn our attention to what’s going to be a pretty great time in the lives of men – an Ashes series against a good Australian side at home and I think we’ll get started. with great confidence.”
One of the people who may be struggling with this issue is Zak Crawley. The opener managed just 58 runs in four innings in the round and currently averages just 27.60 out of 33 Tests.
McCullum continued to show his faith in the 25-year-old actor, but acknowledged that the role he was asked for required thick skin.
“If you’re going to play as an aggressive opener in test cricket, you have to have a sieve-like memory, but that’s his role. You have to absorb the low scores,” he said.
“His offensive play is much stronger than his defensive play, so he has to start from the offensive position instead of trying to defend. If he does, who knows what he can achieve? That’s the challenge for Zak.
“From conversations I’ve had with Ricky Ponting, Australians respect him for the instinct and power he has at the top of the order and how destructive he can be. He’s still a big player for us to move forward.”
Against Black Caps, England went for an unchanging trio of James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Ollie Robinson, but Ashe is likely to catch the eye, as are Jofra Archer, Mark Wood, Chris Woakes and Matthew Potts.
Choosing the right balance will be a challenge in itself, but a McCullum welcomes it.
“You want the choice to be hard,” he said.
“We’re very lucky to have good cattle, so to speak, so it depends on whether Stokesey and I handle the situation.”