London: Former England Test and one-day captain Alastair Cook feels the return of all-rounder Ben Stokes from an injury would give the team a huge boost ahead of the five-match Test series against India in August-September this year.
Stokes marked his return to cricket after surgery to his left index finger on Sunday, striking an 18-ball 29 and taking one wicket, as his county side Durham defeated Birmingham Bears by 22 runs in the Vitality Blast T20 tournament here.
The 30-year-old Stokes had to pull out of the Indian Premier League (IPL) before its suspension due to the injury.
Before the Tests against India, Stokes is set to return for a one-day international series against Pakistan, which begins in Cardiff on July 8.
“It will be a better side with the players (Stokes) coming back against India. They’ll (England) clearly be better balanced which, I think, is a massive issue for them and forced some strange selections against New Zealand, like no spinner on a dry wicket,” Cook told ESPNcricinfo.
England lost the two-Test series against New Zealand 0-1 recently.
“India have shown how good they are at the moment because they’re in the World Test Championship final but, over five Test matches in England, England are hard to beat at home, and I’m expecting a very tight battle,” said Cook, one of the most prolific batsmen of the modern era, who has played 161 Tests and scored 12,472 runs.
“India would have been here for a long time as well so could get mentally fatigued by the end of the tour. India will start pretty well but, consistently over five games, to beat England at home is a monumental effort. So I think if England hang in with India early on, there’s no reason why they can’t win.”