Former Australia opener Chris Rogers believes the Ben Stokes saga that has overshadowed the Magellan Ashes build-up could either make or break England's hopes of retaining the urn.
Stokes, along with teammate Alex Hales, remain suspended by the England and Wales Cricket Board "until further notice" after their alleged involvement in a street brawl in Bristol last Monday that left a 27-year-old man in hospital with facial injuries.
Investigations by the Avon and Somerset Police are ongoing while the pair are also set to face internal ECB disciplinary procedures, with question marks looming over Stokes' involvement in the Ashes.
Rogers, who was part of Australia's 2013 Ashes squad when David Warner scuffled with Joe Root in a Birmingham bar, believes the incident could, on the one hand, unify England's Test squad.
On the other though, he believes it has the potential to completely derail their campaign, and urged England to draw a line under the controversy.
"It's going to be a factor, I just think it needs to be addressed," the 40-year-old, who spent the winter as an assistant coach with county side Somerset, told The Mirror. "You have to get it out in the open, deal with it and move on.
"Credit to Darren Lehmann, that's what he did. One of the first bits of business he did was call Warner on it and say, 'This is your last chance, you've got to start doing the right things'.
"It almost galvanised us a bit (and) it could have that effect on England during The Ashes.
"It could have the opposite effect as well – it could cause a bit of friction, but it'll come down to the characters involved and the leaders, they're the most important people."
Australia spearhead Mitchell Starc on Tuesday spoke in glowing terms of Stokes' all-round ability but believes England can still win the Ashes without him.
"Everyone in world cricket knows how good Ben is," Starc told reporters in Sydney.
"If he does come, we know how good a player he is and he makes that team much more balanced. If he's not there it's a big blow for them.
"But he's not the be all and end all of their team. There's plenty of other guys we need to worry about.
"Some experienced bowlers, some experienced batsmen at the top. They bat quite deep as well, when you've got Moeen Ali coming in at No.8 and (Chris) Woakes probably coming in at 9.
"It's not just about one guy."
Rogers however believes the series would be better off with Stokes involved.
"The contest is worse for it, if he's not allowed to play, that's for sure because he's such a big figure in England's side," he continued.
"Stokes is the enforcer, the guy who is going to stand up to the Australian way. It's going to leave a big hole that somehow England are going to have to fill.
"It will be interesting to see which characters step up to fill the void. But at the moment I don't see how you can fill that hole.
"If he's missing, it lessens the contest in many respects."
Stokes, the Test vice-captain, was named in England's Ashes squad announced last Wednesday, and reportedly broke a finger during the alleged incident that led to his arrest on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm.
The 26-year-old was released without charge but remains under investigation.
"Ben Stokes and Alex Hales will not be considered for selection for England international matches until further notice," the ECB's latest statement reads.
"Each remains on full pay pending further ECB investigation and the ongoing Police investigation into an incident in Bristol in the early hours of Monday 25 September.
"Andrew Strauss, Director of England Cricket, will today (September 28) refer the internal disciplinary procedure for these two players to the Cricket Discipline Commission, chaired by Tim O'Gorman.
"These decisions, fully supported by ECB Chairman Colin Graves, were made following the release of footage viewed by ECB for the first time on Wednesday night."
England Test squad: Joe Root (c), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Gary Ballance, Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, Mason Crane, Ben Foakes, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ben Stokes, Mark Stoneman, James Vince, Chris Woakes.
2017-18 International Fixtures:
Magellan Ashes Series
First Test Gabba, November 23-27. Buy tickets
Second Test Adelaide Oval, December 2-6 (Day-Night). Buy tickets
Third Test WACA Ground, December 14-18. Buy tickets
Fourth Test MCG, December 26-30. Buy tickets
Fifth Test SCG, January 4-8 (Pink Test). Buy tickets
ODI Series v England
First ODI MCG, January 14. Buy tickets
Second ODI Gabba, January 19. Buy tickets
Third ODI SCG, January 21. Buy tickets
Fourth ODI Adelaide Oval, January 26. Buy tickets
Fifth ODI Perth TBC, January 28. Join the ACF
Prime Minister's XI
PM's XI v England Manuka Oval, February 2. Buy tickets
T20 trans-Tasman Tri-Series
First T20I Australia v NZ, SCG, February 3. Buy tickets
Second T20I – Australia v England, Blundstone Arena, February 7. Buy tickets
Third T20I – Australia v England, MCG, February 10. Buy tickets
Fourth T20I – NZ v England, Wellington, February 14
Fifth T20I – NZ v Australia, Eden Park, February 16
Sixth T20I – NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18
Final – TBC, Eden Park, February 21