ENGLAND welcomed back “vivacious character” Ben Stokes in an otherwise unchanged squad for the first Investec Test against India.
Without long to dwell on the dramatic last-gasp defeat against Sri Lanka at Headingley, selectors opted to take an identical 12-man squad to Trent Bridge for the flagship series against India augmented by Durham all-rounder Stokes.
The 23-year-old was the star performer during England’s otherwise dismal Ashes winter, taking 15 wickets and hitting a maiden Test century in the 5-0 Australia whitewash, but saw his progress stall after a self-inflicted injury.
Stokes punched a locker on the limited-overs tour of West Indies, forcing him to miss the World Twenty20 and, due to uncertainty over his match-fitness, the start of England’s international summer.
But it was always a question of when, rather than if, he would re-enter the fray, and ten wickets in his last LV= County Championship match for Durham made a compelling case that the time was right.
National selector James Whitaker said: “Ben’s strength and vigour will add to the whole environment and it will be fantastic for him.
“He is a vivacious character, he’s got some ‘X factor’, he’s fantastic on flat wickets and gets some movement off the pitch.
“We’re excited about Ben.”
Explaining Stokes’ previous nonselection, Whitaker explained: “We didn’t have any regrets about not including him for the Sri Lanka series. We made that judgement call and felt at that stage he needed a few more overs under his belt and get a little bit more consistent with the ball and we feel he has done that.”