The pressure of captaining England for the first time, with regular skipper Joe Root missing the match to attend the birth of his second child, would have been enough to concentrate all-rounder Stokes” mind in normal circumstances.
But the first fixture in a three-Test series has been given added significance by the pandemic.
“I know everybody has been craving this, certainly from a players’ point of view but I also think from a spectators’ and fans’ view,” said Stokes on Tuesday. “This is a massive occasion for a lot of people.”
No spectators will be allowed into the Ageas Bowl in a behind-closed-doors series that sees the other two Tests taking place at Old Trafford.
But Stokes said a lack of a crowd was no reason for England to let their standards slip.
“We know we have that responsibility on our shoulders, to go out and do justice for all those people,” he said.
“We can’t use no crowd as an excuse to not feel up for this game because we know we have hundreds of thousands of people following us and wanting us to do well back home.