England named their 16-man Ashes squad on Wednesday, and it’s fair to say the reaction has been less than positive.
The squad includes three uncapped players, which might well have made the headlines were it not for the antics of Ben Stokes.
The all-rounder – England’s stand-out player – was caught up in a fight outside a Bristol nightclub early on Monday, and arrested on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm.
To top that off, he came out of the fight with a minor fracture to one of the fingers on his right hand, which places extra doubt on his fitness for the start of the tour should he be able to go.
Without Stokes, many believe it will be almost impossible for England to retain the Ashes, which they won back at home in 2015, with former England captain David Gower telling BBC Radio 4: “Stokes would have been written on that list within milliseconds as the pivotal man in that team.
"When you've got a Ben Stokes who can bat, bowl, take brilliant catches, who is that sort of inspirational figure pretty much whatever he does on the field, you want him there at all times.
"We know he's got the sort of character on the field that in effect leads the team. I had the same sort of experience and memories from Ian Botham 30 years ago.
"Andrew Strauss was right that as it stands then they have no choice to pick the team which they would have done three or four days ago anyway.”
England knew they were struggling for batsmen going into this Ashes tour, but even so, the selection of this batting line-up has been widely criticised, not least by respected Australian pundit Jim Maxwell, who said: “I think it’s one of the poorest English batting line-ups I have ever seen to come to Australia. The result of the series? Sorry folks: Australia 5-0 England.”
Some of the most stinging criticism, however, has come from Kevin Pietersen, who made his feeling known on Twitter after the squad was announced.
“Before bed, I have a comment on England’s Ashes squad – it’s horrendous! They may as well not go! Night x”
He then followed that with another tweet, which read: “I actually feel really sorry for Root, Cook, Anderson & Broad! Now I’m going to bed!”
It’s a damning verdict, and is sure to do nothing to boost the confidence of a squad who are already facing an uphill struggle Down Under.
The tweet didn’t go down well with fans either, with many calling KP “bitter”, and asking him to support his country rather than criticise a squad which includes plyers he played alongside.
Others pointed to the fact that Pietersen was whitewashed twice during Ashes series in Australia across his career, and with squads that were supposedly better than what England have to offer now.
Regardless, there is very little for England fans to do but put their hope in the squad they have – and hope Ben Stokes gets on that plane.
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