McCullum backs hobbling Stokes to be 'sweet' for Ashes
England coach Brendon McCullum is convinced a long stint at the Indian Premier League will not worsen Ben Stokes' knee injury nor prevent him writing his own Ashes "script" this summer.
The dust has barely settled on one of the most remarkable matches in the history of Test cricket - a thrilling one-run defeat by New Zealand in Wellington - but attention is already turning to the forthcoming visit of the Australians.
The Ashes begin at Edgbaston in less than four months, with a revitalised England attempting to reclaim the urn for the first time since 2015, and Stokes' troublesome left knee is already a cause for concern.
He was barely able to bowl in New Zealand, contributing just nine overs across two Tests, and was in visible pain while batting during the dramatic day-five run chase at Basin Reserve.
Stokes' importance as a totemic leader of the side cannot be overstated - he has overseen 10 wins from 12 games - but he has already confirmed he will honour his Stg 1.6million ($A2.9 million) deal with IPL side Chennai Super Kings later this month, spending up to eight weeks with the franchise.
McCullum was due to play golf with his fellow Kiwi and current CSK head coach Stephen Fleming on Wednesday, with Stokes' well-being on the agenda.
"I've got a tee-time with Flem, so I'll be talking to him and making sure he looks after the skipper," said McCullum.
"He sees the big picture, so I've no concerns that Ben will be totally looked after. I also believe that the Ashes is the script that the skipper is waiting to write, so he'll be sweet. I don't have any concerns.
"I don't think he's jeopardising it. I know that Chennai set-up, I played for that franchise and it is excellent in looking after the players. They've got a very good medical team.
"When he comes back into the fold and leads us into the Ashes campaign he'll have the bit between his teeth and I think we'll be all right."
McCullum said he thought the new Zealand loss was "epic".
"I think there'll be tens of millions of people around the world that sat back and enjoyed that Test match.
"Now we have the opportunity to really start to plot and plan and turn our attention to what's going to be a pretty amazing time in the guys' lives - an Ashes series at home against a good Australian side and we'll go into it with a lot of confidence."
One man who may be struggling in that regard is Zak Crawley. The opener managed just 58 runs in four innings on tour and now averages just 27.60 from 33 Tests.
But McCullum continued to show faith in the 25-year-old.
"You have to have a memory like a sieve if you are going to play as an aggressive opener in Test cricket, but that is his role. You have to suck up the low scores," he said.
"His attacking game is much stronger than his defensive game, so he needs to start from a position from attack rather than looking to defend. If he does that, who knows what he can achieve?
"From my conversations with Ricky Ponting, the Australians respect him for the instinct and power he has at the top of the order and how destructive he can be. He is still a big player for us moving forward."