ENGLAND selector James Whittaker insists Ben Stokes is still a key part of the side’s future – despite dropping the all-rounder from the Test squad to face Sri Lanka at Lord’s next week.
England have chosen Chris Woakes instead of the Durham star, whose eventful winter included a maiden Test century in Perth but then a self-inflicted broken wrist when he lost his temper with a Bridgetown dressing-room locker after making a golden duck.
He missed the start of the summer because of that injury, and has since been able to play only two first-class matches so far.
But while Stuart Broad and Matt Prior have been chosen despite their fitness worries, Stokes has been left out.
It’s a blow for the 22-year-old, while fellow Durham team-mates Mark Stoneman and Scott Borthwick were overlooked in favour of Sam Robson and Moeen Ali respectively.
Whitaker insists that the punched door incident is all “water under the bridge”, and that Stokes very much remains part of England’s Test plans.
“He was an immense success in the Ashes and is a real big part of our future,” he said.
“But just at the moment, we feel he could do with some more game time.
“I hope the public will enjoy Ben Stokes in the future when he’s fully fit and has got overs under his belt.
“With only 36 overs, for a 22-year-old and back-to-back Tests, he needs some more cricket.
“(But) he’s a super athlete, super guy – he will be a big part of our future.”
One player who has returned is Liam Plunkett, 29, who has had a dramatic resurgence since moving from Durham to Yorkshire last year.
He won the last of his nine Test caps at the start of Peter Moores’ first stint as coach against West Indies at Old Trafford in June 2007.
England’s selectors have been particularly impressed by Plunkett’s pace so far this seaon.
“He has shown all the hallmarks of a spearhead fast bowler,” said Whitaker.
“He’s had some really quick spells, 90mph. One of his quickest was at Lord’s, a few weeks ago, so he’ll be confident there.”