Nasser Hussain has admitted that England will struggle to replace Ben Stokes as the Ashes series looms closer.
The first Test begins at The Gabba in Brisbane between Australia and England on November 23, but all-rounder Stokes was suspended by the ECB for his alleged participation in a brawl in Bristol that was caught on CCTV.
Whilst he hasn’t been a confirmed absentee, the 26-year old hasn’t flown out with the rest of the team, and is a major doubt for the trip ‘Down Under’.
Captain Joe Root this week denied that there is a ‘drinking culture’ within the squad, whilst coach Trevor Bayliss stated the squad have agreed ‘sensible’ rules in regards to alcohol on the trip.
Former captain Hussain believes that chairman of the selectors James Whitaker has a tough decision to make, whilst having his own ideas on who he would like to step into Stokes’ shoes.
“He is virtually irreplaceable as he is two cricketers rolled into one," he said.
“I said a couple of weeks ago that I would have gone for someone like Samit Patel, who would give England a fifth bowling option and also keep the batting strong as getting big first-innings run in Australia is very important.
“It doesn’t look like they will go down that route as they have drafted another bowling option, Steve Finn, into the squad.
“You’d think they will now move Jonny Bairstow up to six, Moeen Ali to seven and Chris Woakes to eight and slot in the extra bowler to look after James Anderson and Stuart Broad’s legs.
“I think you will have to look at how Finn, Jake Ball and Craig Overton go in the warm-up games with regards to who gets the nod in the Tests.
“If you are going to play the extra bowler then go for the one who gives you something different, so if Finn suddenly finds some rhythm and extra pace and bounce, he might be the man. It’s vital that there is a bit of variety.’
Hussain also believes that Jonny Bairstow should remain in his role as wicketkeeper-batsman, despite murmurs that he could be moved up the batting pecking order and replaced behind the stumps by Surrey’s Ben Foakes during the series.
“That shouldn’t be in their thinking as Bairstow has done brilliantly as keeper-batsman,’ Hussain stated.
“His keeping over the last year, like with Matt Prior before him, has improved beyond recognition.
“Everyone spoke about his batting over the summer but when that ball wobbled around his glovework was exceptional. Just look at how the Windies’ wicketkeeper, Shane Dowrich struggled in comparison.
“Why after all that effort he has put in would you relieve him, give the gig to someone else and end up with two wicketkeepers. I certainly wouldn’t go down that road.”