Root left planning for an Ashes winter without Stokes as England squad jet off

Battle for the ashes: Yorkshire's England captain Joe Root poses with the Ashes urn during a press conference at Lord's yesterday ahead of the England squad's departure Down Under for the tour of Australia. (Picture: Adam Davy/PA)
Battle for the ashes: Yorkshire's England captain Joe Root poses with the Ashes urn during a press conference at Lord's yesterday ahead of the England squad's departure Down Under for the tour of Australia. (Picture: Adam Davy/PA)
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England remain in the dark about whether Ben Stokes will make the Ashes tour.

All-rounder Stokes will not fly out with the rest of the squad to Australia today, having been suspended following an incident outside a Bristol nightclub in September.

Stokes was arrested on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm and released without charge, but remains under police investigation.

The 26-year-old, who also suffered a broken finger, has not been ruled out of the five-match Test series which begins in Brisbane on November 23, but he is out of consideration for selection until further notice.

And captain Joe Root admits he has had to plan for the eventuality that one of his star men, and vice-captain, will miss the entire tour.

“I think we’ve got to plan as if he’s not going to be there for the whole series,” said Root.

“It’s an ongoing investigation, we’re very much in the dark about what’s happening, as is everyone. So as a side we have to make sure we plan accordingly and approach this as our squad.”

Root has yet to name his vice-captain for the tour, but revealed that is also a discussion that will take place in Australia.

The 26-year-old batsman is looking for other members of his squad to step up to the plate in Stokes’s potential absence, but refused to divulge whether the incident had affected their relationship.

“That’s between me and Ben, being brutally honest,” Root added.

“That should stay between us. It is disappointing that he’s not going to be on the trip, but you have to move on and move forward as a team.

“He’s obviously very disappointed, but I can’t speak for him. Ben offers a lot to the team, but it’s an opportunity for other guys to stand up in a difficult situation.

“As a side I look at where we are and how we’ve grown as a team and think that this is a great opportunity for us to keep developing and move forward again.”