ENGLAND coach Trevor Bayliss has laid bare the game-changing impact Ben Stokes’ absence has made on their Ashes disaster.
Bayliss was forced to answer questions about his coaching future, which could go on the line if England lose in a whitewash, but the reality is he has been badly let down by his misbehaving players.
None more so than Stokes, the champion all-rounder who is one of the most brilliant match-winners in world cricket.
Stokes is yet to be punished by authorities or the England Cricket Board, but watching his teammates slump to a 3-0 thumping at the hand of Australia is surely the most damning lesson he could learn.
So far in this series, England have had a shot in both Brisbane and Adelaide, and in Perth they were flying at 4-360 on day two before crashing to a humiliating innings defeat.
Asked if Stokes had robbed England of making a contest of the Ashes, Bayliss was coy in his response.
“It’s hard to say. What I will say is it’s obviously changed the dynamics of our team,” said Bayliss.
“I think the Australian team has been too strong for us. Whether he was here or not, the simple fact he wasn’t and guys here took that on the board very early.
“Certainly it has been a change to the set-up that we’ve had over last couple of years.
“Off the field he’s one of the guys, who is a leader on the field and even tactically he’s a guy who is a go-get-em type guy.”
Captain Joe Root refused to blame Stokes.
“I’m not going to make excuses about things that are out of our control,” said Root.
“We knew he wasn’t going to be on tour from the very start. I was very confident this group of players could win.”
Bayliss was directly asked about whether he felt he was the man to coach England into the future, and the Australian-born mentor said he believed he was but that it was up to people “on a higher pay grade” to make that decision.
Predecessor Andy Flower was sacked after England lost 5-0 to Australia four years ago and England’s absurd off-field antics and poor performances in the first three Tests have left Bayliss in a tough spot.
England’s experienced players are also under the gun, with the coach to have to strongly consider looking to the future with selectors for the Boxing Day and Sydney Tests.
Captain Root said he wants to see ageing warriors Alastair Cook, Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson backed in for the rest of the series.
“I’d like to think so. They have huge amounts of experience and they do offer a lot to this group and the performances over a long period of time,” said Root.
“They’ve been in situations where things haven’t gone for them before and they’ve bounced back and there’s no reason why they can’t do that again.”
Broad said he hasn’t considered changes at this point, although Craig Overton is in extreme doubt for Melbourne with a cracked rib.
Bayliss suggested Alastair Cook had earned the right to decide when his time is up.
“There’s no plans right at this very moment. I haven’t thought of it,” said Bayliss.
“A few guys who would be disappointed with the way they’ve gone on this tour. The younger players have been some of our better players. That’s the pleasing side of it.
“Cooky has played the game long enough I’m sure he’ll know when it’s time to go.”