(Reuters) – Steve Smith shrugged off concerns a lingering elbow injury will limit his effectiveness in the Ashes series against England and said he is relishing the return of Ben Stokes to international cricket.
Stokes was added to England’s squad for the Ashes on Monday after initially being left off the list as he continues to recover from mental health issues that had sidelined him since June.
But Smith welcomed the all-rounder’s inclusion for the eagerly anticipated series, which is scheduled to begin on Dec. 8 in Brisbane.
“It’s great that he’s now available,” said Smith.
“Anytime someone comes back from (mental health issues) it’s a great thing and we love coming up against the best players, so it’s great to see him going to be on the plane.
“I think any team’s more dangerous when you’ve got someone like Ben Stokes playing.
“It certainly adds a lot to their depth, but we’re excited and I’m glad personally that he’s able to be back playing some cricket. It makes for a really good series.”
Stokes has also been dealing with a finger injury that required surgery and which has kept him out of the Twenty20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates and Oman.
Smith is currently in the Gulf participating in the competition despite lingering issues with his left elbow, but the former Australia captain is confident he will have few fitness concerns by the time of the Ashes series.
“(My elbow) is in a good place, it feels really good,” said Smith.
“I’m continuing with my strength work and my rehab stuff, so I feel like I’m going well and progressing along nicely, so I’ve got no real concerns (for the Ashes).”
After speculation England would not send a full-strength squad to Australia for the Ashes due to the country’s strict pandemic regulations, Smith is looking forward to facing a strong side led by captain Joe Root.
“It was always their decision whether they want to come out or not, but we always want to have all the best players playing in an Ashes series,” he said.
“That’s what it’s about for an Australian or an English cricketer. It’s the main tournament in the long format of the game for us.
“We’re excited about this summer coming up, looking forward to seeing some crowds back in Australia and hopefully having a really successful summer of cricket.”
(Reporting by Michael Church, Editing by Christian Radnedge)