LONDON – England captain Joe Root said on Friday that his side were prepared to be without star all-rounder Ben Stokes for the whole of their upcoming Ashes tour of Australia.
Stokes, England’s vice-captain, will not fly out with the rest of the squad on Saturday, having been suspended from international duty following an incident outside a Bristol nightclub in September.
The Durham ace remains under investigation after being arrested on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm.
Stokes and England are still waiting to discover if he will face criminal charges.
The England and Wales Cricket Board have yet to rule him out of the five-Test series, which starts in Brisbane on November 23, but he is not currently available for selection.
“We’ve got to make sure we plan and prepare as a squad and look to approach it as if this is our team going out there for the tour,” Root told reporters at Lord’s on Friday.
Ashes holders England have yet to name a replacement vice-captain, but Root said there was no need to rush that decision. “We will have to sit down and chat about that,” said the Yorkshire batsman.
“It’s something that’s ongoing and over the course of the next few weeks, we’ll come to a decision.”
Root added neither he nor anyone else in the England hierarchy had received any indication as to whether Stokes would face criminal charges.
“To be brutally honest, I am in exactly the same position as you,” he said.
“It’s an ongoing investigation. We don’t really know how long things are going to take, and I think we’ve just got to sit tight and wait.”
England have suffered humiliating 5-0 series defeats on two of their last three Ashes tours of Australia, although they did enjoy a 3-1 triumph in 2010/11.
Many pundits believe that without Stokes they have no chance of a successful tour this time around, but Root said: “He is a fine player, but I see a squad of players that’s more than capable of going over there and doing something really special.”
Root denied England had a drinking culture, as he vowed there would be no repeat of the incident that had put Stokes’ Ashes participation in jeopardy.
“We know that what’s happened hasn’t been good enough, and we are determined to get that right,” he said.
“I don’t think there’s a drinking culture in our side... We are grown men, we know how to behave, and we’ll make sure we conduct ourselves well on this tour.”