Ben Stokes’ return to England colours in time for the Ashes has been greeted with joy in England.
The talismanic all-rounder has been added to the squad having declared himself fit after a lengthy break to focus on his mental wellbeing and fully recover from a finger injury.
Club cricketers’ Whatsapp groups buzzed with the news, and senior figures were equally thrilled.
Test skipper Joe Root was delighted.
The Yorkshireman tweeted: “One of the greats as a cricketer and an even better bloke. Welcome back my friend.”
One of the greats as a cricketer and an even better bloke. Welcome back my friend ❤️ https://t.co/FleT7eDjxu
— Joe Root (@root66) October 25, 2021
News of Stokes return was a major talking point among England’s Twenty20 World Cup squad in Dubai on Monday.
“I know the lads have been talking about it here and it’s really nice to see Ben coming back to cricket,” Liam Livingstone said.
“To have Ben around a group is great.
“I’ve played a lot of cricket with Ben over the last couple of years and just to have him around an environment is a massive boost for any team, especially going into a massive series like the Ashes, it’ll be great for the lads to have Ben around.”
Former England skipper Michael Vaughan, writing in his Daily Telegraph column, said Stokes’ return was ‘huge’.
Vaughan, who as captain won the Ashes in England in 2005, said: “Without Stokes, I would not have given England a chance in Australia; with him, they have a glimmer of hope – and maybe a bit more than that.
“Stokes is the engine of this England team, the guy who powers them. Not only does he contribute massively himself, he lifts the performances of those around him, inspiring, cajoling and driving up standards.
“Crucially, he is also a player that Australia fear. The sight of him walking out at Brisbane – or wherever he manages to play his first Test – will send a few shivers up local spines.”
Vaughan said he still made Australia favourites but added: “Stokes has unfinished business with the Aussies. He hasn’t managed an away victory in Australia. That will be on the cricketing bucket list.”
Another former captain, Nasser Hussain, said: “It’s great news for England. Ben is virtually irreplaceable in any format.
“He is the type of cricketer you need in Australia, someone to look them in the face and take them on. You think of Sir Ian Botham. You think of Kevin Pietersen. Australia like to go after players that back down – Stokes definitely won’t do that.”
There was even approval from a former Australia player.
Jason Gillespie tweeted: “Ben Stokes coming to Australia is fantastic for the “Ashes”.
“Players always want to challenge themselves against the best and Ben is part of the best England team. Test cricket is just awesome!”
n his Mirror newspaper column Stokes said he was ‘buzzing’ for the Ashes and added: “I know I can focus again on playing my best cricket Down Under this winter,.
“I probably didn’t realise just how much of an issue the finger was causing me until I got it sorted the second time around.”
Stokes said that he was also struggling with bubble fatigue, adding he was in a “dark place” with difficult thoughts.
He said talking to his wife, England captain Joe Root and professionals had helped him.
“I was always one of those people who wouldn’t talk about how they’re feeling and just keep it internal and crack on,” he said. “I now realise talking is such a powerful thing and it has completely changed me.”
Stokes returned to the nets less than a fortnight ago, but said late last week he was back batting pain-free.
He will land in Australia next Thursday with the England Lions and Test specialists ahead of the series opener on December 8, after initially being unavailable for England’s original squad.