Legendary batsman Kevin Pietersen has shared his take on England's chances in Australia if Ben Stokes fails to link up with the squad.
The 26-year-old all rounder has been suspended by the ECB following a brawl outside a nightclub in Bristol in which he threw a number of punches.
He is currently being investigated by the police and could still have some sort of involvement in the series which begins in six weeks.
Stokes will definitely not fly out to Australia with the England team and bowler Steven Finn has been called up as his replacement.
Finn, 28, made his Ashes debut in 2010 but has played just one test - against Bangladesh - in the last year.
England director of cricket Andrew Strauss said: "We have spoken to Ben and assured him that our decision [to bring in Finn] 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."
The Aussies are considered big favourites and one cricketing legend believes the nation's hopes lie on whether or not Stokes is included.
"Massive, massive problems"
Pietersen, 37, has not played for England since the 5-0 Ashes drubbing in January 2014 and worries that something similar could be in store if Stokes doesn't join his teammates Down Under.
"Stokes is a three-part player. He’s a bowler, he’s a batter and he’s a wonderful fielder as well," Pietersen said.
"He just galvanises that team and gives them a lot of energy. Because the top order is so weak, you need Stokes in that set-up.
"Stokes, [Jonny] Bairstow, [Moeen] Ali – they do so much of the hard yards, especially when they’re batting because of how weak the top order is.
"If he doesn’t go, England have massive, massive problems."
The only certainties in England's unarguably "weak" top order are opener Alastair Cook and captain Joe Root.
Gone are the days when the likes of Ian Bell, Jonathan Trott and Pietersen could be relied on for runs.
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