Michael Vaughan senses there is “no chance” Ben Stokes will play for England this summer, but the tourists have ensured the guessing game will continue by provisionally including the suspended allrounder in an ODI squad.
Stokes, who has been stood down by England’s board until it learns whether he will be charged over the Bristol brawl that left another man with a fractured eye socket, has been named in a 16-man squad for a five-match series against Australia that runs from January 14-28.
The vice-captain, who started playing domestic cricket with New Zealand franchise Canterbury last Sunday, remains unavailable for internationals.
England reaffirmed on Thursday it will not settle on any form of punishment – nor contemplate Stokes’ return – until UK prosecutors hand down their decision.
Stokes was also initially named in England’s Ashes squad but it is increasingly unlikely he will play any part in the ongoing Test series.
“They don’t want to prejudice any kind of case moving forward. They had to include him in the squad,” former England captain Vaughan told the BBC.
“It’s very confusing but I don’t think anything has changed.
“I would bet my bottom dollar that unless this case comes to an end very quickly, there is no chance that Ben Stokes will play cricket in Australia this (UK) winter.”
England coach Trevor Bayliss and one-day captain Eoin Morgan are also in the dark about Stokes’ hopes of playing in Australia next month.
“Absolutely no idea,” Bayliss said
“Whenever he comes back that’s going to be a bit of a circus.
“Whether it’s any more of a circus than it’s already been, it’s hard to say.
“I’m sure there will be a fair bit of scrutiny … there’s been a fair bit of scrutiny that’s come along with it in the first five or six weeks.”
Morgan was pleased to learn the Christchurch-born star would gain must-needed match fitness in New Zealand.
“Given that he could potentially come back quickly,” Morgan told reporters.
Former Engalnd allrounder Ian Botham called for Stokes to be recalled immediately, while Mitchell Starc shouldered arms when asked about the absence of the combative 26-year-old.
“Whether that’s affected them, you’d have to ask them,” Starc said.
Alex Hales, who was stood down by England’s board for his involvement in the Bristol incident, will not face charges and has also been included in the ODI squad.
Hales may continue to pay some price though, with Bayliss indicating incumbents Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow will likely open when the series starts in Melbourne.
“Hales has a bit to do to get back in the team … I can’t see any changes,” Bayliss said.
Bairstow, Joe Root, Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes and Jake Ball are the only members of England’s Test squad who will stay on for the ODI series.
England 16-man ODI squad: Eoin Morgan (capt), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Sam Billings, Jos Buttler, Tom Curran, Alex Hales, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, David Willey, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.
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