Chris Woakes says Ben Stokes’ return is ‘welcome news’ and a ‘huge boost’ for England’s chances ahead of this winter’s Ashes series in Australia.
Stokes announced he would be taking an indefinite break from all forms of cricket back in July, with a view to protecting his mental health and to rest his injured finger.
The 30-year-old has since undergone two operations on his left hand and began teasing a possible comeback with a series of videos showing him batting and bowling in the nets on Instagram.
And though Stokes was left out of England’s initial 17-man party, the Durham star was officially added to the squad this week and could play a starring role as the tourists look to regain the urn Down Under.
Fellow all-rounder Woakes, who will travel to Australia once England’s T20 World Cup campaign comes to an end, discovered the news of Stokes’ return ‘literally moments’ before the rest of the world found out on Monday morning.
‘For me personally, I don’t know what it was for the other boys, but it was literally moments before it was announced to the media,’ Woakes told BBC Test Match Special following England’s eight-wicket victory over Bangladesh in Abu Dhabi.
‘It was obviously welcome news. It’s great to have Ben amongst the squad again and more importantly to have him involved in cricket again.
‘To see him well, to see him ready to go and play cricket for England again is really good.’
Woakes believes Stokes’ ‘world-class’ ability with both bat and ball would improve any side in Test match cricket.
‘It’s huge. I think any team having Ben Stokes in it makes it a better team, let’s face facts,’ he added.
‘He’s a world-class all-rounder, we’ve seen the performances he’s put in throughout his career.
‘More recently in the last few years for England, that World Cup year and Ashes year at home, a lot of the time he was the difference for us.
‘He’s a huge player to have with bat, ball, in the field and in the dressing room so of course it’s a huge boost for us as a team.
‘Going Down Under is never an easy prospect so to have him on board is obviously great.’
Speaking to the media earlier this week, Steve Smith praised Stokes’ brave decision to take a break from the game to focus on his mental well-being.
The Australia batsman feels Stokes’ comeback ‘makes for a really good’ contest between cricket’s oldest rivals.
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.
‘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.’
Smith added: ‘We have seen it a lot more now, the acceptance of people when they’re not doing well mentally.
‘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.’