Joe Root believes Ben Stokes will thrive in Australian conditions as the game-changing allrounder prepares to amp up for the Ashes.
Root, Stokes and England’s other red-ball specialists start their tour on Friday, checking into a Gold Coast resort to quarantine.
Stokes, initially left out of England’s initial touring party because of a finger injury and mental-health reasons, confirmed last week he would make the trip.
The late addition has boosted the visitors’ hopes of reclaiming the urn, while adding another level of hype to the iconic series.
Stokes missed the corresponding 2017-18 tour through suspension, having later been found not guilty of affray, then wrote himself into Ashes folklore with a stunning match-winning knock at Headingley in 2019.
Root noted he was keen to manage expectations regarding the fit-again superstar, but also didn’t attempt to hide the seismic effect of Stokes’ inclusion as England pursue their first Test series win in Australia since 2010-11.
“We look at how he performed in his debut series out there,” England’s captain said in his pre-departure press conference.
“That hundred he scored and the five-for in the last Test match, it shows he can perform in those conditions and those sort of wickets suit the style of player he is.
“He’s a massive asset in many respects.
“First and foremost his performances on the field, especially with what he’s done against Australia in the recent past.
“But also the way he plays his cricket … as well as balancing the side.
“He’s a brilliant leader in the dressing room and people follow him.”
Players will be confined to their individual rooms for three days before getting the green light to train at Metricon Stadium, as per the exemptions signed off by the Queensland government.
Stokes, who hasn’t played at any level since July but recently resumed batting and bowling in the nets, will be keen to make the most of two warm-up matches.
Root predicted that building up the bowling fitness of the talisman, whose Headingley feats included a momentum-shifting marathon spell, will be the biggest hurdle before the five-Test series begins in Brisbane on December 8.
“He’s been netting properly, can hit balls properly again,” the skipper said.
“One of the things that we’re going to have to manage well is making sure that workloads are up with ball in hand and that he doesn’t go in light of work.
“He’s been out of the game for a long time, had a serious injury and he’s got a lot of work to do to get himself back to the Ben Stokes we all know.
“But if there’s one thing you can bet on with Ben, he’ll do everything he can to ready himself and put in performances which help England win games of cricket.”
Root was diplomatic when asked about Tim Paine’s “no one is forcing you to come” remark, which Jimmy Anderson criticised, and the fact Australia haven’t played a Test since January.
“I’m very wary about commenting too much on Australia. I don’t think that’s the right approach,” he said.