London: The uncertainty surrounding the fate of suspended all-rounder Ben Stokes is hampering England's preparations for the upcoming Ashes series in Australia, former skipper Andrew Strauss has said.
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) suspended vice-captain Stokes pending an investigation into an incident outside a Bristol nightclub in September for which he was arrested on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm.
He was released without charge but remains under police investigation.
England have arrived in Australia without Stokes, who is considered vital to their hopes of retaining the Ashes following their 3-2 victory in 2015.
The series begins at the Gabba in Brisbane on November 23 with the fifth and final Test in Sydney from January 4.
"The situation, in a word, is complicated," ECB Director of Cricket Strauss told the BBC.
"There's two different potential disciplinary procedures he has to go through, one is the ECB's internal one and the other is any potential police action.
"Until we know more from the police, it's very hard for us to put a timeline on anything."
"What we all want is clarity on what that situation is and how much cricket he will be missing for England," the 40-year-old said. "We're keen to get into that and move this forward but we're in the hands of the police.
"Ben has been and is developing into a world-class cricketer. The fact he's not out there at the moment is a blow to the England team."
Strauss is the last captain to lead England to an Ashes win in Australia when they beat the hosts 3-1 in 2010-11. Their last trip to Australia four years ago was nothing short of a disaster as they suffered a humiliating 5-0 whitewash.
However, Strauss said that stinging defeat would motivate the current side.
"I was involved in a 5-0 drubbing in 2006 and I used that as a very strong base for retribution," Strauss added.
"I'm sure the guys who were there last time and suffered the chastening defeat at the hands of Mitchell Johnson will want to put that right."