Root thought Stokes' airport appearance was a joke

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Joe Root thought Ben Stokes was playing a joke when he turned up at Heathrow airport with his England kit on Sunday.

Stokes is the notable absentee from England's squad for the Ashes series in Australia after being suspended by the ECB, the all-rounder having been arrested in Bristol in September.

He was released under investigation and police have referred his case to the Crown Prosecution Service for "charging advice".

Stokes added fuel to the speculation that he could join up with Root's squad by flying out to New Zealand, the 26-year-old signing for Canterbury as their overseas player.

Root was surprised to see his former vice-captain ready to board a plane, and thought Stokes was doing it as a prank.

"When I saw the pictures, I was wondering whether he was going on holiday with his England bag just to wind people up," said the England skipper.

Whether Stokes will link up with his international team-mates remains uncertain, and although Root would love to have him at his disposal, he is focused on those who are available for selection.

"From my point of view, anytime you can have Ben in your side it would be great," he said.

"But I would personally love to have him back. As a team, we'd love Ben to be part of the squad. 

"Travelling to play in New Zealand just shows how much it means to him to play for England and how desperate he is to do well for his country. It is testament to his character.

"Fair play to him to do everything he can to get himself in the best possible place to play cricket again.

"But we have to move forward and make sure guys stand up. These things are completely out of our hands and we just have to move on. 

"All of our planning and preparation has been without Ben and how we go about things won't change."

Root added: "Without the investigation being closed or moving forward, he won't be able to play for England.

"So whether he's here in Australia or in New Zealand or back home, the stance is the same. Until that changes there is no point in thinking otherwise. I know these things can take time."