England’s test squad for the series against India is almost identical to the side who lost to Sri Lanka just two weeks ago. However, there is one important addition to the squad, that of Ben Stokes. Many were left bemused by Stokes absence in the series against Sri Lanka. Sure, he had only played two first class games since his return from injury but most expected him to be included in the squad anyway after his performances in Australia. While England’s defeat to Sri Lanka wasn’t down to Stokes exclusion their defeat has hastened calls for the Durham all-rounders return especially after his 10 wickets in the county match against Sussex.
Stokes has become popular with supporters since he made his debut during last winters Ashes. He was arguably England’s best bowler and batsman during that humiliating series. At Perth, he scored England’s only hundred of the series in arguably the tour’s most testing conditions. At Perth in the 4th innings, with the wicket cracked and deteriorating, Stokes had Mitchell Johnson bowling 95 mph bouncers at him. The rest of England’s batsman had succumbed to Johnson’s pace throughout the series but here, on the quickest wicket in the world, Stokes stood firm and took Johnson on.
That hundred demonstrates why Stokes is so important for England. It wasn’t just the hundred he scored. It was the way Stokes scored the runs when England needed them most. He took on the world’s fastest bowler in tough conditions and seemed to revel in it. Stokes seems to have the stomach for a fight and that is an attribute England will need as they look to pick themselves up following the series defeat against Sri Lanka.
Now that he has been added to England’s squad, he will almost certainly play in the first test at Trent Bridge but who does he replace? The most likely candidate appears to be Chris Jordan. The Sussex seamer looked visibly tired by the end of the Headingley test however, leaving him out against India maybe a mistake as he two seems to have a certain X-factor about him. Arguably, the bowler who should make way is Stuart Broad. Throughout the Sri Lanka series, Broad was down on pace and looked severely lacking in spark. Broad is someone who thrives on pressure situations and is always looking to make an impact in games. His demeanour at Lord’s and Headingley suggests an injury. It is known that Broad has problems with his knees and he may need an operation before next summer to cure the problem. If he is struggling, he shouldn’t play at Trent Bridge. England are about to embark on a gruelling schedule of five test matches in just six weeks and they can’t afford to carry someone especially a bowler. It would be better to let Broad recover fully so he can get back to form for an important 2015.
The likes of Stokes and Jordan are exciting prospects. Stokes especially seems to be able to get fans excited and interested in cricket. That is an ability England dearly need at the moment following the dreadful six months they have endured and the distinct lack of a connection between the team and their fans. Stokes is back and England are better for it in so many ways.