England captain Ben Stokes insists that his long-term goal of regaining the Ashes in Australia won't affect his focus as he leads his team into a home Test series against the West Indies starting Wednesday.

The series opener at Lord's this week will mark the end of an era, as 41-year-old England paceman James Anderson will play his 188th and final Test, concluding a record-breaking career spanning two decades. Anderson's 700 Test wickets are the most by any fast bowler, and only India's Sachin Tendulkar has played more Test matches (200).

With the 2025/26 Ashes series in Australia approaching, England believes now is the right time to move on from Anderson. Neither England nor Australia has won an away Ashes series since England's 2010/11 triumph, and the Ashes remain a key measure of success for many England captains.

Stokes is determined to avoid the mistake of previous England teams, which have been criticized for focusing too much on the Ashes to the detriment of other series. Ahead of a three-match series against the West Indies, Stokes emphasized the importance of staying focused on the present.

"We're not focusing on the Ashes over what we need to do here," Stokes said at a press conference at Lord's on Tuesday. "We've got a lot of Test cricket to play before Australia. But we had to make some decisions around what we think is best for the team going into that series."

Following a 4-1 series loss in India earlier this year, England has made significant changes, dropping both Jonny Bairstow and Ben Foakes. Debutant Jamie Smith will keep wicket at Lord's, and Shoaib Bashir has been chosen as the spinner over his more experienced Somerset teammate Jack Leach.

"I'm not going to lie. I want us to be able to take a squad out there that I know is going to go at Australia," Stokes, 33, said. "I'll be nearly four years as captain when we go out there, and I want to know we've done everything right over this 18-month period to go out there with a strong enough squad to not just compete with Australia but to beat them."

Stokes also expressed confidence in his ability to perform as a fully-fledged all-rounder again following knee surgery in November. The injury had previously hindered his ability to bowl at pace.

"I've got myself into a position where I can finally say after a long time that I can play the role I've sort of been known for, which is batting and being that fourth seamer," he said.