LONDON: Ben Stokes will not travel with the England squad to Australia on October 28 but no final decision has been taken on his involvement in the Ashes, cricket chiefs said Friday.
Test vice-captain Stokes, 26, was arrested last month on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm and suspended, along with Alex Hales, from internationals until further notice following an apparent fight outside a nightclub.
The powerful all-rounder, who was released without charge but remains under investigation, was included in the Ashes squad despite reportedly injuring his hand in the incident that led to his arrest.
The England and Wales Cricket Board on Friday further announced that Stokes, who is also subject to internal disciplinary action, had been awarded central contracts for Test and limited-overs cricket.
Hales, 28, has been retained as a limited-overs specialist. But the ECB said in light of the ongoing police investigation, Middlesex paceman Steven Finn would be added to the Ashes touring squad.
“With the Ashes just around the corner, it’s important to give the players, the coaching staff and supporters some clarity around a complex situation,” said Director of England Cricket Andrew Strauss.
“This decision will help us in the weeks ahead and give every player and the whole England set-up the best chance to focus on the challenge ahead in Australia.
“Steven is a high-quality cricketer, with considerable experience of both international cricket and Australian conditions. The selectors believe he will add to the range of options and the squad will be further supported by the arrival of the Lions in Australia in November.”
“We have spoken to Ben and assured him that our decision in no way prejudges the outcome of the ongoing police investigation or cricket discipline commission process, as can be seen by the award of central contracts,” Strauss added.
In a separate matter, the ECB has also fined and issued a formal written warning to Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball and Liam Plunkett following a disciplinary investigation into behaviour during the recent one-day series against the West Indies.
No further details have been given but the ECB has stated clearly that this issue is “unrelated to the investigations into Ben Stokes and Alex Hales”.
The absence of Stokes from the the tour of Australia would be a huge blow for Ashes holders England, who have lost two out of their past three tours Down Under 5-0 and are desperate to hit the ground running in Brisbane on November 23.
England enjoyed a good summer at home, with Test series wins against South Africa and the West Indies, but there are doubts about a number of positions at the top of the batting order.
Stokes, who bats left-handed, is an explosive middle-order batsman with six Test hundreds under his belt and a dangerous right-arm fast medium bowler.