London, April 17: Ben Stokes insists he was just as gutted as his England team-mates in the 4-0 Ashes drubbing to Australia for which he was unavailable for selection.
The star all-rounder was not considered for the 2017-18 series in Australia, or the limited-overs contests that followed, due to his alleged involvement in a late-night incident in Bristol last September, for which he was charged with affray and is awaiting trial after submitting a not guilty plea.
Stokes was instead forced to take a watching brief as England toiled throughout the series, but the 26-year-old says he still felt the pain of defeat strongly.
"I lived every moment of the Ashes. I'm sure it was nowhere near the emotions of the guys out there but I was just as gutted," he told the Guardian.
Stokes made his return to the international fold for the tour of New Zealand, making just 12 with the bat during the first ODI but putting in a man-of-the-match showing during the second contest.
Reliving his first game back, he added: "I was anxious. I was guilty of thinking too far ahead and trying to make an impression. It was like I was at the start of my career.
"I was really emotional after getting Man of the Match in that second game back. It was such a relief to perform and be there at the end.
"I had five minutes to myself after getting back to the dressing room, sat in my bubble and taking it all in. The lads appreciated that and gave me space. It was a great feeling."
England have just one away Test-series win since 2012, and Stokes is itching for the team to right that particular wrong.
"I just want to get us back to playing the way we want to play," he said.
"We were so close to being one of the best teams in the world. We've slacked off in the past two years but knowing how close we were gives you that desire to get back there."