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    Stokes Focuses on West Indies Series Despite Long-Term Ashes Goal
Stokes Focuses on West Indies Series Despite Long-Term Ashes Goal
Ben Stokes. Source: livemint.com

Stokes Focuses on West Indies Series Despite Long-Term Ashes Goal

England captain Ben Stokes is determined to ensure that his ambition of reclaiming the Ashes in Australia will not negatively impact the upcoming home Test series against the West Indies, which starts on Wednesday.

The series opener at Lord’s this week is expected to mark the end of James Anderson's illustrious international career. The 41-year-old fast bowler, who is set to play his 188th and final Test, has achieved a record-breaking career spanning two decades. Anderson's 700 Test wickets are unmatched by any other fast bowler, and only Sachin Tendulkar of India has played more Tests, with 200 matches.

With the 2025/26 Ashes series in Australia approaching, England has decided that this is the right moment to move on from Anderson. Since their 2010/11 victory, neither England nor their arch-rivals Australia have won an Ashes series away from home. The Ashes remain a crucial benchmark for evaluating the performance of England captains.

Stokes is determined to avoid the mistake of prioritising the Ashes at the expense of other matches, a misstep made by previous England teams. Ahead of the three-match series against the West Indies, Stokes highlighted the need to focus on the present challenges. He told reporters at Lord’s on Tuesday that their attention is not on the Ashes but on the immediate task at hand.

"We're not focusing on that over what we need to do here," Stokes stated. "We've got a lot of Test cricket to play before Australia. But we had to make some decisions around what we think is best for the team going into that series."

Following a 4-1 series defeat in India earlier this year, England has made several changes, including dropping Jonny Bairstow and Ben Foakes. Jamie Smith will debut as wicketkeeper at Lord’s, and Shoaib Bashir has been selected as the spinner over the more experienced Jack Leach from Somerset.

Stokes admitted his desire to take a strong squad to Australia. "I want us to be able to take a squad out there that I know is going to go to Australia," said the 33-year-old captain. "I'll be nearly four years as captain when we go out there, and I want to know we've done everything right over this 18-month period to go out there with a strong enough squad to not just compete with Australia, but to beat them."

He highlighted the importance of focusing on the team's progression over the next 18 months, stating that this preparation is crucial for winning back the Ashes.

Former England captain Nasser Hussain cautioned against looking too far ahead, advising Stokes to concentrate on the immediate series against the West Indies and Sri Lanka. Hussain wrote in the Daily Mail that while long-term goals are important, it is essential to "win the game in front of you."

Stokes, after undergoing knee surgery in November, is confident he can return to being a full-fledged all-rounder. He expressed satisfaction with his recovery, allowing him to resume his role as a batsman and a fourth seamer.

The first Test between England and the West Indies will begin at Lord’s on Wednesday at 8 pm AEST.

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