Ben Stokes' position as England's vice-captain hangs by a thread pending investigations into his boozy night out, which ended with him arrested, injured and his reputation in tatters.
England's quest to retain the urn is in turmoil with question marks hanging over Stokes' immediate future and queries over the depth of talent in the 16-man squad named on Wednesday.
The touring party contains 11 first-time Ashes tourists and three uncapped players, including former NSW leg-spinner Mason Crane.
England officials are fuming with Stokes, who was arrested in the early hours of Monday morning (UK time) on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm after a bust up outside a nightclub in Bristol.
He was released without charge but remains under police investigation. If charged, he could be forced to leave the tour to attend court hearings in the UK.
Stokes is also facing an internal probe from the England and Wales Cricket Board over the incident, which left the star all-rounder with a fractured finger in his right hand. The injury is not expected to affect his availability for the first Test starting November 23.
The ECB's investigations will not start until after England's one-day international series against the West Indies, which finishes on Friday. It is likely to determine whether Stokes is still in the post come the first Test at the Gabba.
"It would be wrong for me to prejudge what might come out of that process," England's director of cricket Andrew Strauss said.
Cricket Australia reacted savagely in 2013 after opener David Warner took a swing at England's Joe Root in a nightclub, suspending and fining the batsman. The ban effectively ruled Warner out of the first two Tests of that year's Ashes series.
Stokes, one of England's few match-winners but also one of the most volatile players in the world, has a long history of alcohol-related misdemeanours and poor on-field discipline.
He was already on the cusp of missing an Ashes Test after after being sanctioned for swearing last month against the Windies.
He has also been involved in verbal spats with fellow firebrands Marlon Samuels and Virat Kohli, the latter earning him an official reprimand from the International Cricket Council.
Although Australia have become more restrained with their on-field chatter under Steve Smith they know Stokes can easily combust. He is likely to be targeted by Australian crowds, who will relish the chance to goad the temperamental star.
Stokes spoke about his temper in an interview with UK newspaper The Times which appeared on the weekend, just days before his alleged Bristol blow up.
"There's adrenaline there, but I'd never get close to punching someone. It's the heat of the moment," Stokes said.
England will be relying heavily on captain Root and veterans Alastair Cook, Stuart Broad and James Anderson if they are to retain the urn.
Cook and Root are the only proven performers in an England batting line-up that will be largely unknown in Australia to all but the closest followers of county cricket.
Mark Stoneman, with three Tests under his belt, is expected to partner Cook at the top of the order while James Vince (averaging 19 from seven Tests), Gary Ballance (37 from 23) and Dawid Malan (24 from five) are vying for the other two berths in the top six.
Crane has been named as the back-up spinner to Moeen Ali, who has become a useful Test bowler after starting his career as a batsman.
Crane was the leading wicket-taker in Sydney grade cricket last summer and forced his way into NSW's Shield side late in the season.
England squad: Joe Root, Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jonny Bairstown, Jake Ball, Gary Ballance, Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, Mason Crane, Ben Foakes, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ben Stokes, Matke Stoneman, James Vince, Chris Woakes