Stokes wants Ashes series to go ‘beyond cricket’

England captain Ben Stokes says he wants to be involved in an Ashes series that goes “beyond cricket” as he prepares to face Australia in a five-match series.

The swashbuckling all-rounder has led England to 11 wins from 13 Tests since being appointed captain alongside coach Brendon McCullum last year.

Next week the skipper, who starred in the drawn 2109 Ashes series, will lead his men in the first Test against arch-rivals Australia at Edgbaston.

England have achieved their recent striking success playing an aggressive style of cricket dubbed “Bazball” in reference to McCullum’s nickname.

Doubts persist over whether such an approach can succeed against Australia but Stokes is determined to produce a memorable series that can be compared with the 1981 and 2005 Ashes contests, which made all-rounders Ian Botham and Andrew Flintoff huge stars.

“I’ve seen what it’s like when you get those moments that really ignite an audience and even create something that goes beyond cricket,” Stokes wrote in a column for the Players’ Tribune.

“Flintoff in 05, Beefy (Botham) in 81 — magical events that capture the public imagination and show what cricket can be all about.

“Moments that even people who aren’t normally into cricket stick on the telly for because it’s so exciting and you feel like you’re part of something that you may never get to see again.”

Stokes, who has won the 50-over World Cup and Twenty20 World Cup, reiterated his desire for the Test side to play without fear, even though he stressed his hatred of defeat.

“Just because I say it’s all right to fail, it doesn’t mean I’m fine with losing,” he said. “I hate losing.

“But there’s a bigger picture. You have to understand that the only way you ever succeed is by having that liberty to really give it a proper go.”

The global growth of T20 franchise leagues, which offer players the chance to earn huge sums of money in much less time than when on international duty, has left many fans fearing for the future of five-day Test cricket.

Stokes acknowledged the “landscape is changing” but the 32-year-old said he still believed Test cricket remains the ultimate challenge.

“Cricketers have short careers and I know players are going to make decisions about which route they go down based on financial security for them and their families,” he said. “It’s natural.

“I really want boards across the world to get their heads around this, which they seem to be having a hard time doing.

“Rather than fight against it, we need to embrace it. Yes, we may lose a few talented players along the way, but the best way to keep Test cricket alive and at the pinnacle of the sport is to work harder to show players something that excites them and inspires them.”

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