Ben Foakes admits it would be unbelievable to play in an Ashes Test at his Kia Oval home, but knows being focused on the day to day will help block out the noise regarding his “unique” situation.
The England wicket-keeper is back at Surrey and ready for their LV= County Championship opener at Lancashire on Thursday after a solid winter where he registered half-centuries in Pakistan and New Zealand.
Foakes, widely recognised as the best gloveman in the country, has largely been a mainstay since Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes revitalised England’s red-ball fortunes to win 10 of their last 12 Tests.
With a home Ashes series set to get under way in June, Foakes would ordinarily be a sure bet to play the opener at Edgbaston all the way to the final clash at the Oval but Jonny Bairstow’s looming return remains the elephant in the room.
“I’m happy with the way things have gone for me so it is a bit unique to be asked about that (my place), but I can’t remember a time when I haven’t been,” Foakes said at Surrey’s media day.
“It’s the Ashes so you obviously think about it but because I try to take it day by day, I am always prepping to see what I need to be ready for the Ashes and whatever happens, happens.
“It is more about the process of getting there than actually looking too far ahead but obviously it’s a really exciting summer for whoever is involved and hopefully it’s me!
“As a Surrey player, it would be unbelievable to play here and yeah they often do boil down quite nicely here. To play an Ashes, win an Ashes and to do it here would be the icing on the cake.”
Speculation over Foakes’ place remains and he was quizzed about Bairstow during the winter series of New Zealand, which ended with an agonising one-run loss in Wellington.
It saw the run of series wins under Stokes and McCullum halted following a thrilling 1-1 draw in New Zealand and could open the door for Bairstow to potentially return from the serious leg injury that ended his sensational 2022 with the gloves, a role he has performed in 49 of his 89 Test appearances.
But Foakes insisted: “It’s not a question for me. That’s for Baz and Stokesy but I haven’t got a clue.
“As a sportsman that’s probably one of the things you have to deal with, the external stuff. I think the easiest way I’ve found to deal with it is not dealing with it, just not worrying about it.
“I’ve found by doing things like staying off social media, not checking Cricinfo during series and things like that just allows me to play the game of cricket again and be more focused on whatever my job is that day.
“I think it’s just a distraction you don’t need. It can just muddle your thinking I guess.”
Foakes will be aware a strong start to the domestic season would help quieten the noise but he pointed out his role at Surrey differs from that with England.
Despite the boldness and attacking intent of ‘Bazball’, the 30-year-old is often the calming presence required at the end of an innings, whether it be eking out more runs or leading them home in a chase.
While Foakes was unable to do that in Wellington, he is confident a different outcome would occur in the Ashes.
He added: “That’s the area I’ve been working on the most.
“I was really happy with the way I stuck to my processes and did what I wanted to do, but obviously gutted to fall just short and not quite get over the line.
“Just having that experience, I think you naturally learn and you can improve in those situations.”