England can't win Ashes without Stokes - Steve Waugh
Australia selector Mark Waugh accepts there are question-marks over his side's middle order for the Ashes, but brother Steve Waugh believes England cannot win the series if star all-rounder Ben Stokes does not make the trip.
Although Stokes has been named in the squad for the five-Test series that starts at The Gabba on November 26, he is a doubt to be selected due to being suspended by the England and Wales Cricket Board.
Stokes was arrested on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm in Bristol last month, although he was released under investigation without charge, and will not travel to Australia with the rest of the squad this month.
And Steve Waugh, who played in over 150 Tests for Australia, believes England will lose if Stokes is not selected.
"If he doesn't come, I don't think they can win the Ashes," Waugh told Sky Sports Radio in Australia.
"Without Ben Stokes, we'll win. It's too much pressure on [Stuart] Broad and [James] Anderson, and they're getting a bit older, and I can't see them playing five Test matches straight. I think Australia will win 3-1."
Stokes issued an apology on Wednesday after a video clip emerged of the 26-year-old appearing to mimic Harvey Price, the disabled son of TV personality Katie Price, while he has been dropped by sportswear brand New Balance.
Please see below my apology to Katie and Harvey pic.twitter.com/hFx5DnBb8H-- Ben Stokes (@benstokes38) October 11, 2017
While Stokes would leave a chasm at number six in England's batting line-up, Waugh's brother Mark confirmed there are places in the middle order still up for grabs for the Ashes after Australia could only draw 1-1 against Bangladesh in their last Test series.
"In an ideal world you'd want someone like a Ben Stokes who can give you the ideal balance, bat and bowl," Waugh told Sky Sports Radio.
"Especially if you get a long, hot summer in Australia, there's a lot of wear and tear on just the four specialists bowlers, especially when your batsmen don't bowl. If some of your batsmen bowl, a bit like myself and Steve, I think we got about 150 Test wickets between us, you wouldn't really have to look for an all-rounder.
"But I think your number six as it stands is probably going to be a batsman and ideally he bowls a bit, someone like a [Marcus] Stoinis for example, even a Travis Head who bowls some offspin, Glenn Maxwell bowls a little bit. But the number one priority is batting. I'm not calling it an all-rounder, probably more a batting all-rounder. You're getting your best batsman at number six and if they can bowl a bit that's a bonus.
"We've got a few options there, Hilton Cartwright, Glenn Maxwell's the incumbent six and guys like Travis Head and Marcus Stoinis. Every time he's played for Australia, he's really stepped up to the plate as well. So I don't think the out-and-out genuine all-rounder is there, given Mitch Marsh is coming back from a shoulder injury, so it's probably going to be that sort of player, a batsman who bowls a little bit."