'All we can do is get ourselves ready for the Ashes' - Anderson

James Anderson acknowledges the ovation Getty Images

James Anderson says that England's cricketers must focus solely on their own preparations in the build-up to this winter's Ashes, and tackle the team dynamics when they reconvene as a squad at the end of the month, as the fall-out from the Ben Stokes incident continues to overshadow the build-up to their biggest challenge of the year.

Stokes' hopes of being retained in England's Ashes plans are very much in the balance. Though he is expected to be retained on the ECB's list of centrally contracted players, due to be unveiled this week, Avon and Somerset Police are still investigating the incident that took place outside Mbargo nightclub in the wake of England's ODI victory over West Indies last Monday.

But regardless of whether Stokes is able to make the trip or not, Anderson retains the belief that England can emerge triumphant from what will be his fourth Ashes campaign in Australia, so long as each of the squad members can keep their eyes on the prize ahead of their departure on October 28.

"What we need to do as a team, whether the things that are happening happen or not, the next few weeks are about getting yourself ready as an individual to play in an Ashes series," Anderson told ESPNcricinfo. "From my point of view I'll be bowling at Lancashire, getting in the gym, trying to stay fit, and getting ready for that challenge when we get over there. That's all we can do. Prepare yourself as an individual and when we get there, we can galvanise as a team."

Already, however, the Stokes incident has guaranteed that England's traditionally robust welcome from Australia's fans and media will be stepped up an extra level or two. And Anderson, who has endured two 5-0 whitewashes either side of a series-winning haul of 24 wickets on the 2010-11 tour, knows more than any England player about the unique challenges of playing Down Under.

"You've got to prepare yourself for that," he said "The fans are very passionate about cricket in Australia, but at the same time they are knowledgable and if you give them something back they'll embrace it. If you perform well, they'll embrace it, and respect you for it. What we've got to focus on is performing well, and if you can do that, everything else will take care of itself."

Anderson was speaking ahead of the PCA Awards dinner, English cricket's traditional end-of-season get-together in London. The night offers an opportunity for players from all counties to let their hair down after a tough season, although in light of the events in Bristol last week - and the ECB's subsequent investigations into the England team culture - several players are likely to be more guarded in their celebrations than might ordinarily have been the case.

Nevertheless, both Andrew Strauss, the director of England cricket, and Trevor Bayliss, the coach, have reiterated in the past week the importance of allowing players to let off steam during high-profile series, and Anderson admitted he did not yet know what the management's attitude towards nights out would be during the Australia campaign.

"I'm not sure how things are going to go," Anderson said. "We are obviously going to speak as a team when we get out there but, at the minute, we're just trying to prepare for the cricket we are going to play out there, and get ourselves in the best shape to compete with Australia."

On a personal note, Anderson heads to Australia in some of the best form of his already extraordinary career. He claimed 39 wickets in seven Tests against South Africa and West Indies this summer, and crucially managed to stay fit throughout, having missed eight Tests through injury in the previous two years.

"The summer's gone better than I would have expected," he said. "At the start of the summer I was with Lancashire and got an injury or two, which was quite frustrating, but when I got the chance to play in the Test matches, I knew I was bowling well so I knew that if I could stay on the field, then I'd be in a good place

"It's been one of those summers. It's been a good patch for me, a hot patch, everything has gone my way. Even my bad balls have been getting edges, so it's one of those things you've got to make the most of."

In the course of the season, he notched up another notable landmark during the Lord's Test against West Indies, when he became only the third fast bowler, and sixth overall, to reach 500 Test wickets. At the age of 35, he's determined to keep enjoying the game while he can.

"For me, there's no sort of target or goal," he said. "My sole purpose is to stay fit, stay on the field, and contribute to England winning games of cricket. I'm glad that I did that this summer, and hope I can keep doing it in the future."

As for the challenge of winning in Australia and banishing the memories of England's painful defeat on the last tour in 2013-14, Anderson said: "I don't know if it's unfinished business but it's an exciting time for us.

"We've got a lot of players who haven't played in an Ashes tour before, and from an Englishman's point of view, playing an Ashes in Australia, if you can win there that is the biggest accolade you can get from a team sport in cricket. It's a huge thing but it can be so enjoyable if you go about it the right way."