England head coach Trevor Bayliss has backed the return of Ben Stokes to the England Test squad, emphasising the importance of it for his own “wellbeing”.
Stokes was recalled barely two hours after he was found not guilty of affray at Bristol Crown Court on Monday. The decision was made following a conference call involving several figures including Bayliss, Test captain Joe Root and the ECB board.
“It was a collective decision – myself, management, captain, the board, Ed Smith – everyone had a say,” Bayliss said. “It was basically thought that for his own wellbeing it was good to get Ben back around the cricket.”
Where Stokes fits back into the England XI remains a difficult selection issue. Chris Woakes, Stokes’ replacement for the second Test, put in a man-of-the-match performance at Lord’s, while Sam Curran continues to impress with bat and ball. And despite the undoubted importance of Stokes to England, Bayliss offers no guarantees that the Durham all-rounder will slot straight back in for the third Test.
“There’s nothing automatic about selections, we’ll see how he is mentally as well as physically,” Bayliss continued. “We’ll find out over the next couple of days, I haven’t actually spoken to him yet. We’ve got the next two days to assess where he’s at.
“It’s a good position to be in from that [a selection] point of view. We’ve got some guys in form, in the team. It will be a difficult decision to make. Whether it’s Ben or someone else.”
Although Stokes has legally been found not guilty, a sanction could arrive for the 27-year-old and his England teammate Alex Hales from the Cricket Disciplinary Committee (CDC). While the process by the independent body takes place, Bayliss aims to continue work on improving team culture around the England team. It follows episodes during the winter, such as Jonny Bairstow’s ‘headbutt’ of Cameron Bancroft and Ben Duckett’s incident in Perth.
“Certainly since the Bristol incident there’s a lot of work been done on team culture with the two captains and that will be ongoing. We’ve had to make one or two changes – with curfews and that kind of thing – but there will be ongoing work on team culture and what it means to play for England.
“Since a couple of small indiscretions in Australia, I can sit here now and say the players have finally woken up and have learned their lesson. Their behaviour and the way they go about their professional off the field as well as on has been top class since.”
England lead their Test series against India 2-0, with the third Test starting at Trent Bridge on Saturday.