Trevor Bayliss, England's Australian coach, admits he has written off any chance of Ben Stokes taking part in the forthcoming Magellan Ashes series.
While the tourists prepare for their opening tour match in Perth on Saturday, Stokes is currently grounded in England waiting on the outcome of an ongoing police investigation into his involvement in a late-night brawl outside a Bristol nightclub during his team’s one-day series against West Indies in September.
England fans are clinging to the hope that a swift resolution to the criminal case could see Stokes arrive in Australia at some point during the Ashes. However, even then he would then be subject to an internal disciplinary investigation from the England & Wales Cricket Board, a process the board have said will not be rushed.
Add in the fact that Avon & Somerset Police, the force investigating Stokes, last year took on average 24 weeks before deciding whether to charge suspects or not, the prospects of England being able to call on their talismanic allrounder for the Ashes appear remote.
Up until now, nobody within the England camp has been prepared to admit that Stokes – suspended by the ECB until further notice – is a non-runner for the Ashes.
But Bayliss, speaking in Perth yesterday, did as much when asked if he had written Stokes off for the tour.
"I have," he said. "If he turns up it’s an absolute bonus. And if he did happen to turn up, I’m quite sure he would slip back in very easily."
Asked if he knew when Stokes could be playing again, Bayliss added: "Haven’t got a clue. It’s totally out of our hands. We have just got on with preparing as best we can."
The Stokes controversy has rocked England's Ashes preparations and forced captain Joe Root to deny that there is a booze culture within the squad at his team’s pre-tour departure press conference at Lord’s last Friday.
Root and the players got together with Andrew Strauss, England’s director of cricket, after that to draw up rules regarding off-field behaviour in Australia.
While no curfews will be imposed on the players, they have all agreed to adhere to a written a code of conduct that includes measures such as informing team security every time they go on a night out on tour and imposing a booze ban on all squad members three days out from any match.
"The players have sat down, had a bit of a chat and come up with a few small rules and regulations, and a belief or agreement among themselves that they will be doing the right thing and looking after themselves," said Bayliss.
"There will be times when they are able to go out and have a few beers. It was just making sure in the two or three days before a game we are back in good time, not out late. That should just be the norm anyway.
"It’s a long tour, you can’t be cooped up in a hotel room for four months. It’s a case of being sensible and professional, that doesn’t change with set rules in place or not.
"Whatever rules and regs you have there’s a bit of a wake-up call. We would have preferred it not to be such a big wake up call."
That wake-up call and the fall-out from it meant Bayliss' plans for a hard-earned break back in Australia following the northern summer were disrupted.
"Certainly, the first week or so was a difficult period for everyone behind the scenes," he said. "It’s something you’d much rather not go through, that’s for sure.
"It mucked our plans around a little bit, I was coming home for three weeks but had to go back (to England) for three days for meetings that were supposed to happen at the end of the season.
"From that point of view, it's upset the programme. That’s a month ago now, but since we’ve been here there’s been no chatter about it.
"The players have a very important, tough series coming up and they are totally focussed on winning it. They are concentrating on playing without him. We can’t worry about something we can’t control."
The relentless glare of the Australian media and the incessant questions regarding Stokes over the coming weeks are something else England will not be able to control.
"It’s something you’d much rather not have to deal with, but that’s life," said Bayliss. "It’s happened, and we will have to answer those questions and get on with it.
"The Australian media will hammer away and try to put the pressure on in other areas as well. We have to try to deal with that and keep it separate from what we are doing on the practice field and in matches."
Stokes – the only ray of light during England’s 5-0 hammering in the 2013-14 Ashes in what was his debut series – is the last player England would have chosen to lose for this tour.
Without him, their chances of upsetting the odds and retaining the urn recede significantly.
Yet Bayliss says: "If any team lose one of their better players it’s going to be upsetting to a certain degree. But we have time to smooth things out and find the right combination. We certainly wouldn't be here if we didn't think we could win without him.
"Certainly, we’ve been playing some good cricket, so have Australia. Both teams are similar. They are beatable."
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
Gillette 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
Gillette T20 INTL 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 13
Fifth T20I – NZ v Australia, Eden Park, February 16
Sixth T20I – NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18
Final – TBC, Eden Park, February 21