'Looking grim': England's Ben Stokes 'unlikely' to return for Ashes

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·Sports Reporter
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Ben Stokes has been taking a break from cricket to focus on his mental health.
England all-rounder Ben Stokes is seemingly all but out of England's Test team for the Ashes in December, as he continues to focus on his mental wellbeing. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

England all-rounder Ben Stokes is reportedly 'increasingly unlikely' to join England for their Ashes tour in Australia later this year.

Stokes has been taking an extended break from the game, save for a handful of appearances in 'The Hundred' earlier this year, as he seeks to manage his recover from a finger injury, as well as his mental health.

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English cricketing officials are reportedly particularly focused on the latter, meaning his spot in the Ashes team may not be a given.

According to The Telegraph, Stokes is still a potential starter for the Ashes, but England's 2023 tour of the West Indies is firming as the more likely place he makes his international return.

Players will be given notice of the quarantine requirements they will be subjected to upon arriving in Australia, and will be given a chance to opt in or out of the Ashes.

According to the Telegraph, Stokes' injured finger could also be a barrier to him playing in Australia later this year.

“This remains a major ongoing concern, with the risk that a further blow could lead to a prolonged period out of the side," the report read.

Stokes received the full support of the England Cricket Board after announcing he would be stepping away from the game to focus on his mental health.

Managing director Ashley Giles said Stokes had made a courageous decision.

"Ben has shown tremendous courage to open up about his feelings and wellbeing," he said.

"Our primary focus has always been and will continue to be the mental health and welfare of all of our people. The demands on our athletes to prepare and play elite sport are relentless in a typical environment, but the ongoing pandemic has acutely compounded this.

"Spending significant amounts of time away from family, with minimal freedoms, is extremely challenging. The cumulative effect of operating almost continuously in these environments over the last 16 months has had a major impact on everyone's wellbeing.

"Ben will be given as long as he needs and we look forward to seeing him playing cricket for England in the future."

England have expressed serious concerns about the conditions the team will be forced to live under during the Ashes, creating doubt about the series going ahead as planned.

Injured Tim Paine 'confident' of Ashes return

Australia captain Tim Paine is "extremely confident" of being fit for the first Ashes Test despite undergoing invasive neck surgery.

A bulging disc had been causing the wicketkeeper pain in his neck and left arm, leading Paine to have an operation this week.

Surgeons had to cut a hole in his throat to fix the issue.

The 36-year-old will rest for two weeks before commencing rehabilitation to ensure he is fit to lead Australia against England at the Gabba on December 8.

Paine admits he is "pretty sore" but is optimistic about his playing future after speaking to other athletes who have had similar operations.

Former NRL and Wallabies star Matt Rogers and recently retired Melbourne AFL captain Nathan Jones were back up and running within eight weeks.

Australian Test captain Tim Paine has had surgery on a bulging disc, with the Ashes approaching in December. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)
Australian Test captain Tim Paine has had surgery on a bulging disc, with the Ashes approaching in December. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

"It was sort of getting to that touch and go stage where I either don't get it done and take the risk that I'd be right through the Ashes, or get it fixed now," Paine told SEN.

"Pretty happy with the decision after the surgeon had a look in there.

"December 8 is the first Test and I'm extremely confident I'd be right to go before then.

"I'll hopefully get a Shield game in for Tassie before then and hopefully be on the winning end of a third winning Ashes would be something really special.

"I want to keep playing for Tasmania after my international career.

"To have it fixed and out of the way was the correct decision long term.

"I've had plenty of doubters my whole career so it's something that I'm used to; that's alright, I'll use it as motivation to get back out."

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