England captain Joe Root has said that the team are planning for an Ashes without star all-rounder Ben Stokes.
Stokes' much-publicised arrest in September and subsequent suspension have dogged England's preparations for the upcoming Ashes tour, with pressure to both select and not select the 26-year-old.
The all-rounder's suspension has meant he's out of the running for selection at the start of the tour, and Root has confirmed that the team are working on the basis that he isn't available.
Stokes hasn't, however, been completely ruled out - something that England will be hesitant to do with such an important player.
One relatively minor complication that the suspension has thrown up is that of a replacement vice-captain, with Root confirming that discussions are ongoing.
"We'll sit down and come to that conclusion over the next couple of weeks," he said.
The England captain then proceeded to tackle the big question over Stokes - whether or not the team can afford to consider him - giving as sensible an answer as could be expected.
"I think (the inclusion of Stokes) is something we can look at when it's a possibility," said Root.
"We've got to make sure we plan and prepare as a squad and look to approach it as if this is our team going out there for the tour.
"We can't look at what is out of our hands, we want to get out there and get our teeth into the cricket."
One other major problem that the 26-year-old has to deal with is the accusation that there is a drinking culture within the England team.
The worry is a natural one in the wake of Stokes' big-night-out, but Root was quick to dispel things - while admitting that they will do what they can to make sure it was a one-off.
"We will sit down and make sure nothing like this happens again, we know it wasn't good enough," he added.
"I don't think there is a drinking culture but we will address the issue, we are grown men and we will make sure things like this don't happen again."
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