London - Ben Stokes is desperate to inspire England back to
the pinnacle of Test cricket, saying the team has "slacked off" in
the past two years, slipping to fifth in the world rankings.
The 26-year-old all-rounder returned to international
cricket in February against New Zealand but could not prevent a 1-0 defeat for
the tourists to extend a miserable run that has seen England win just one Test
series overseas since 2012.
Stokes missed his side's 4-0 Ashes humbling after being
suspended from playing for England over a nightclub incident and admitted he
was "gutted" to watch his teammates struggling in Australia.
Just two years ago England were one Test win away from
holding all nine bilateral Test trophies but were denied as Pakistan won at the
Oval and squared the series.
"I just want to get us back to playing the way we want
to play," Stokes told Britain's Guardian newspaper. "We were so close
to being one of the best teams in the world.
"We've slacked off in the past two years but knowing
how close we were gives you that desire to get back there."
New Zealand-born Stokes said he had accepted the decision of
coach Trevor Bayliss not to reinstate him as vice-captain for the New Zealand
Stokes, currently playing for Rajasthan Royals in the Indian
Premier League, pleaded not guilty to a charge of affray over the nightclub
incident that forced him out of the Ashes tour.
He looks set to miss the second Test against India at Lord's,
with his trial set for August 6.