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Ben Stokes hits back at Steve Harmison’s criticism of England tour preparation

Ben Stokes is content with England’s warm-up plans for the India Test series (Mike Egerton/PA)
Ben Stokes is content with England’s warm-up plans for the India Test series (Mike Egerton/PA)

Ben Stokes has hit back at Steve Harmison’s criticism of England’s Test preparation for the forthcoming tour of India.

Ex-England seamer Harmison, a former Durham team-mate and close friend of Stokes, believes that arriving in India just three days before the start of a five-match series is a recipe for disaster.

He claimed the tourists would “deserve to get beat 5-0” without spending longer acclimatising to conditions, drawing a curt response from the England captain.

Stokes replied to a video of Harmison’s comments, saying: “Good job we’re going to Abu Dhabi for a training camp before we go to India for even more training before that 1st test then isn’t it.”

England, who lost 3-1 in their previous Indian tour on spinning pitches, do not have any warm-up fixtures scheduled but hope to tune up for the series opener on January 25 with a week-long workout in the United Arab Emirates.

Harmison suggested that approach was insufficient, telling talkSPORT: “If England go in three days before they deserve to get beat 5-0, they really do.

“I’m an old man, that’s what they’ll say…times have changed, but preparation hasn’t changed. I love this new approach, I love Ben Stokes and (head coach) Brendon McCullum. But I’m sorry, going three days before…you’d never do that for an Ashes series.

“You’d never go to Australia three days before the Gabba, so why go three days before Hyderabad? For me it stinks, it absolutely stinks.”

Stokes is recovering from knee surgery after confronting a long-term injury.
Stokes is recovering from knee surgery after confronting a long-term injury (Mike Egerton/PA)

Stokes, meanwhile, is racing to be fully fit for the first Test.

He underwent surgery on his longstanding left knee injury at the end of November and has been chronicling his rehabilitation with a sequence of videos on Instagram.

England are not expecting him to feature as a bowler but even having him available to bat pain-free would represent an improvement on recent times.

Posting from the gym on Wednesday, he wrote: “massive progress for the week”, “muscle symmetry coming back” and “finally able to get into the flexion needed for a spin on the bike, for something normally so easy it was very pleasing to be able to do [it] today”