England must take “the moral decision” when it came to Ben Stokes’s participation in the upcoming Ashes series, suggested Mike Hussey, while also saying that the visitors were capable of retaining the urn even without their beleaguered allrounder.
Stokes hasn’t travelled with the English touring party and James Anderson has been named vice-captain in his absence even as the Avon and Somerset Police continue their investigation into the late-night brawl in Bristol back in September involving Stokes and Alex Hales.
“It’s a difficult one. In my mind, if you’re in the England camp, you’re wrestling with two things,” offered Hussey in the latest episode of The Unplayable Podcast. “The moral decision is … the footage looks pretty bad, he’s going to have a lot on his mind with the investigation, perhaps he’s better off just not coming at all. Give someone else an opportunity to become an Ashes hero, really make a name for himself, just leave him (Stokes) back home and don’t worry about it.
“On the other hand, he’s a quality player and England are probably looking at their team thinking, ‘We need a Ben Stokes’. If I was in there that’s what I’d be wrestling with; it’s a moral decision or do you go with what’s the best team on the park.
“I think if it was up to me, I’d probably take the moral decision and say, ‘Stay at home, get yourself sorted out,’ and give someone else an opportunity.”
Hussey felt that England did have enough good players in their ranks to push Australia hard over the five-Test series. “They (England) can win without him (Stokes),” he said. “A lot is going to have to go right, I think, looking at some of those inexperienced players in the (England) top order.”
Alastair Cook, though not in great form, was still going to be a tough nut to crack, felt Hussey, adding that Australia would have to see the veteran opening batsman’s back quickly to do justice to their tag of favourites.
“He (Cook) is a champion player, he’s done it before and if he gets the first score and his confidence up early in the series then he will be hard to stop. You have to keep it simple, don’t bowl short and wide, don’t bowl on the pads – well, you shouldn’t really do that to anyone. You’ve got to it simple and keep homing in on a good line and length,” said Hussey.
“He’s very, very disciplined, so he’s more likely to be patient and wait for you to stray on your line and length a little bit, and that’s when he’ll pick you off. A lot the English players like to play the ball really late, they don’t come forward a long way, they like to play from the crease with soft hands. So what the Australians like to do is pitch the ball up, get the English guys to drive down the ground.
“It’s the same with Cook, if you can get him playing drives towards mid-off then you feel like you’re in the game. If there’s any movement at all, you can bring the slips into play and he’s probably not as strong down the ground as he is on the pull shot, the cut shot and off his pads as well. Australia just have to be patient and be disciplined, and if you’re going to err then err on the fuller side of things.”
The first Ashes Test starts on November 23 in Brisbane, and will be followed by fixtures in Adelaide, Perth, Melbourne and Sydney.