English cricket is desperate to attract a family audience to the game, which is why a new Twenty20 league will be introduced in two years’ time. A huge television deal has been signed on the back of that, promising to find new fans. Well, first things first. If they want to get kids and mums watching cricket, then the culture within the England team has to change to reflect that. Unfortunately, in this England set-up there are two or three people who need to be managed a little more carefully than others. Giving everyone responsibility for their own actions is fine, but you cannot treat all individuals the same way. Some have to be managed more than others and have boundaries put in place. If that does not happen, then this will not be the last we hear of England cricketers being accused of doing the wrong thing. It is about knowing personalities. England know that Ben Stokes has been in close scrapes before. When you put Alex Hales in the mix as well, it is arguably the worst combination of an England pair you could have out in the early hours of the morning. You have to know who you are dealing with and, if those two are having a night out, then they need security with them. When England are on tour, they have security everywhere. There is no way those two would have been out on their own at 2.30am in Sydney. Why not here? At the moment, there are too many people making excuses for them and saying it is OK to be out at 2.30am during a one-day series. It happened in the 1980s, 1990s and in my time. I was unprofessional by thinking it was fine to have a late night out during a one-day series. It is important cricketers realise they are professionals representing their country. They have to wait until after a series to go out and let their hair down. Win a series or Test and then have a celebration. Not before. Cricket is now an athletic sport, particularly at the top level. Players have to be fit. Yes, you could get away with it when I was playing but that is no excuse. The game has changed and professional standards have to reflect that. It is such a shame because we were just seeing this England Test team start to play in a more positive way. Joe Root and Trevor Bayliss had changed the team’s ethos in Test cricket. At the heart of that was Stokes. The only way you can be an aggressive cricket team is if you have the players to do it, such as an aggressive all-rounder such as Stokes. He is the one who can take the game to the opposition. He bats, bowls and fields brilliantly. He balances the team. If he is not in Australia, it changes everything. One option for them is to pick Liam Plunkett and move Jonny Bairstow to six, Moeen Ali to seven and Chris Woakes to eight. Plunkett can bat so he adds depth to the tail at nine. England use Woakes, Stuart Broad and James Anderson as their three main bowlers. They lack pace but you have to hope their skill levels get them through and then England can use Plunkett as the firecracker who offers something different. He can bowl a bit quicker, use slower balls and bouncers. By having Plunkett in the side it means the tail does not start at nine. The batting looks deep and it keeps four decent bowling options. If you have Woakes at eight, the tail is too flimsy and the Australian pace bowlers will blast them away. I hope England prove me wrong but I just do not see them having a chance without Stokes. It is not just the balance he brings to the team. His batting is so good. You could argue he is the second-best batsman in the team. He has a good record in Australia. He knows how to score on their wickets. The Aussies fear him as well. England can live without his bowling. It is much more useful in England where the Duke ball swings and he can bowl golden spells. The way for England to beat Australia is to look at how South Africa played last year. They were very disciplined when they bowled. It was about line and length and getting the ball to reverse swing. They also batted patiently and set themselves to bat long periods of time.
England are not a team that is going to blow Australia away with the ball. They do not have the attack to do so on those wickets. Instead, they will have to wear Australia down. If they do that, they have a sniff of a chance without Stokes.
— The Telegraph Group Limited, London 2017