Australia one of the poorest sides I've seen, Botham claims

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Ian Botham says being without Ben Stokes would be a massive blow to England but the retired great is not scared of Australia ahead of the Ashes, labelling the hosts "one of the poorest sides I've seen in a long time". 

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has announced that Stokes will not travel Down Under at this stage following his arrest and release without charge after an altercation during a night out in Bristol last month.

While the incident has threatened to throw England's preparations into turmoil, Botham offered a damning verdict on the quality of an Australian side that suffered a first Test loss to Bangladesh in August.

"One thing I will say is, everyone just wants to have a look at that Australian side," Botham, who is playing in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship Pro Am golf competition in Scotland, told Omnisport.

"They're not very good. One of the poorest sides I've seen for a long time. I wouldn't be too bothered."

But Botham acknowledged the potential negative impact of Stokes being absent from the tour would have on England.

"It'll be a massive blow, he's one of the best players in the world. Of course, it will be a blow," he said.

The legendary all-rounder also questioned the ECB's decision to call up paceman Steve Finn as a potential replacement for Stokes.

"I'm surprised they've gone that way," he said.

"Nothing against Finny but if you're going to take Ben Stokes out of the equation, you need to take two players, you need to take a batsman and a bowler."