'Glad personally': Steve Smith responds to Ben Stokes bombshell

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Pictured left, Aussie batsman Steve Smith and England allrounder Ben Stokes is on the right.
Steve Smith is relishing the showdown against Ben Stokes and his England side in the upcoming Ashes series. Pic: Getty

Steve Smith says Ben Stokes' inclusion in England's Ashes touring squad is a win for cricket fans and has welcomed the showdown against the dangerous allrounder.

Stokes on Monday dropped the bombshell news that he was coming to Australia for the Ashes, having taken an extended break from the game to deal with mental health concerns and an injured index finger.

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Six months after picking up the injury in the Indian Premier League, England's best cricketer declared that he was finally mentally and physically fit enough to return to the game.

Smith says Australia will relish the challenge of again locking horns with Stokes in the five-Test series starting in Brisbane on December 8.

"Their summer, he missed all of the cricket there with some mental health stuff going on so anytime someone comes back from that it's a great thing," Smith told reporters on Tuesday.

"And we love coming up against the best players so it's great to see he is going to be on the plane.

"Every team is more dangerous when you have got someone like Ben Stokes playing so it certainly adds a lot to their depth ... I'm glad personally that he's able to be back playing some cricket, it makes for a really good series."

Stokes required two surgeries on his injured finger, including one earlier this month, while he also took time away from the game for his mental wellbeing.

The 30-year-old admitted he was in a "dark place having difficult thoughts" after his finger injury, his feelings exacerbated by 'bubble fatigue'.

"We have seen it a lot more now, the acceptance of people when they're not doing well mentally," said Smith, who faced his own mental struggles after the 2018 ball-tampering affair in Cape Town.

"So credit to Ben for being able to make that decision and step away for a bit and make sure he's right to go out and play and live his life,

"You know, there's more out there sometimes than just a game of cricket.

"So for him to be able to make that decision to step away, and for the acceptance from the ECB and everyone involved, I think that is really important for people going forward, that is for sure."

Seen here, Ben Stokes celebrates a big Ashes century against Australia in 2019.
Ben Stokes has confirmed that he will be part of England's touring squad for the Ashes series in Australia. Pic: Getty

Stokes missed the last tour of Australia for off-field reasons but was their one shining light in 2013-14 when he scored a fourth-innings century in just his second Test.

In the past three years alone he has averaged 45 with the bat and 28.02 with the ball and is ranked second in the ICC's allrounder rankings despite his long absence.

Ben Stokes returns after extended break

In his Mirror newspaper column, Stokes said he sought counsel from his wife, England captain Joe Root and health professionals.

"I was always one of those people who wouldn't talk about how they're feeling and just keep it internal and crack on," Stokes wrote.

"I now realise talking is such a powerful thing and it has completely changed me."

In a column for The Telegraph in the UK, former England captain Michael Vaughan said Stokes' decision to tour Australia may have been inspired by controversial remarks from Aussie skipper Tim Paine.

The Australian captain ruffled a few feathers in England after insisting the Ashes would go ahead whether England captain Joe Root was here or not and questioned whether their rivals had the stomach to tour Australia for a series in which they have been widely written off.

"I wonder whether his (Ben Stokes) mind may have been made up by the comments Tim Paine made when there was still doubt over Root and England travelling to Australia at all,” Vaughan wrote in The Telegraph.

“Paine said that the Ashes would go ahead with or without Root, and seemed to question England’s motivations.

“I know some of the England boys were not best pleased with those remarks and it might just be that Paine prodded Ben over the line - he may live to regret it.”

Stokes will arrive in Australia next Thursday with the England Lions and Test specialists ahead of the Ashes opener.

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