But although Root would “love to have” Stokes back, he accepts there is no point dwelling on the possibility of him returning during the current Ashes series.
Stokes’ appearance with his England kit sparked speculation that he could be about to bolster the Ashes squad, but those suggestions were soon scotched when it was confirmed he was heading to New Zealand. Initially that was said to be for a “family” visit, but it soon emerged he had been handed at No Objection Certificate by the ECB to pave the way to play domestic cricket.
A deal with Canterbury was confirmed on Thursday and Stokes is set to appear in the Ford Trophy for Canterbury against Otago on Sunday. But the news a few hours before that agreement was announced that Avon and Somerset Police had passed his case onto the CPS for “charging advice”, following the incident in Bristol on September 25 which led to Stokes’ arrest, has made it ever more unlikely that he will play a part in Australia.
“From my point of view, anytime you can have Ben in your side it would be great,” Root said. “When I saw the pictures I was wondering whether he was going on holiday with his England bag just to wind people up.
“But I would personally love to have him back. As a team, we’d love Ben to be part of the squad. Travelling to play in New Zealand just shows how much it means to him to play for England and how desperate he is to do well for his country. It is testament to his character. Fair play to him to do everything he can to get himself in the best possible place to play cricket again.
“But we have to move forward and make sure guys stand up. These things are completely out of our hands and we just have to move on. All of our planning and preparation has been without Ben and how we go about things won’t change.”
While the case is in the hands of the CPS – and their decision could take a number of weeks to be confirmed – Stokes will remain unavailable for England selection. There had been much debate that he could be available for Perth in mid-December but that timescale appears to have vanished.
“Without the investigation being closed or moving forward, he won’t be able to play for England,” Root said. “So whether he’s here in Australia or in New Zealand or back home, the stance is the same. Until that changes there is no point in thinking otherwise. I know these things can take time.”