The return of “freak” talent Ben Stokes to the England set-up will be a big boost to the dressing room, according to batsman Dawid Malan.
Stokes has boarded a flight to New Zealand and will link up with the national side for the first time in five months when he arrives in Hamilton at the end of the week.
The all-rounder pleaded not guilty to a charge of affray at Bristol Magistrates Court on Tuesday, the latest development in a story which began with an altercation outside a nightclub in September.
A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then, with Stokes sitting out England’s 4-0 Ashes defeat, a resounding victory in the one-day campaign and the start of the Trans-Tasman T20 Series.
He is not being considered for selection for Sunday’s clash against the Black Caps – which may yet be a dead rubber if the Black Caps beat Australia on Friday and leave England unable to reach the final.
But when he does make his long-awaited return to the XI, potentially during the New Zealand ODIs, Malan is sure it can only be good news for his team-mates.
“Stokesy is probably one of the best all-rounders in the world, if not the best all-rounder in the world,” he said.
“He is pretty much a freak when he gets going. The confidence he brings to the team and the skill set he brings are unbelievable. You know that you have got a match-winner there either with the ball or the bat.
“To have him and around the team is fantastic, especially in the shorter format. It allows you to balance the team and play another batter or another bowler. Someone like Stokesy is invaluable.
“When you are batting with him you see how good he actually is and the confidence he has is the main thing. He believes that in any situation he can win the game.”
Despite the esteem Malan holds Stokes in, he revealed that his name has hardly been the talk of the team room in recent weeks.
That was not always the case, with rumours of a possible Ashes appearance seeping into the England bubble in Perth, but after three successive T20 defeats there have simply been other priorities for the travelling squad.
“I think everyone forgot that it was his court case yesterday,” revealed Malan.
“There was one point in the Tests when the boys were chatting around the changing room that he could still make the third Test. Apart from that, there’s been no chat since. That doesn’t mean no one wants him. Everyone wants him here.
“I just think if it’s beyond your control you probably don’t speak about it.”
Malan has come out of this month’s hat-trick of T20 losses with greater credit than most, hitting stylish half-centuries in losing causes at Hobart and Wellington.
He now has three fifties in four appearances in the format, the result of method honed in domestic white-ball cricket with Middlesex over more than a decade.
“You have to have a process and a game plan to work around,” he said.
“I think Twenty20 has gone away from just walking out and trying to slog every ball for six. You have to be quite smart sometimes and know when to take risks, when not to take risks and which bowlers to go after.
“You’re still going to get good balls, play poor shots, get run out or whatever. That’s the game. When you are hitting the ball well, you have just to get as many runs as you can.”