Don Topley: Ben Stokes should not be playing for England after court case
PUBLISHED: 10:17 21 August 2018 | UPDATED: 10:17 21 August 2018
In his latest column, Don Topley discusses the fall-out from England star Ben Stokes’ recent court case, and offers his thoughts on how his return to the England fold should have been handled.
Nothing good happens in or outside a nightclub at 2am is my message to Ben Stokes – and I was surprised that he made the England XI for the Third Test at Nottingham.
Of course, the jury at his six day trial in Bristol returned a unaminous verdict of not guilty to a charge of affray.
Almost immediately, Stokes was added to the Test Squad and the actual playing XI was named unusually early with Stokes selected and poor young Sam Curran making way.
If I or my son was to be left out of the Test side for the returning Stokes, I would have been aggrieved.
Curran has performed well in both Tests, in fact, all the England players have performed well and won.
For me, the better decision would have been to let Stokes join the squad but be 12th man.
He is a talented once-in-a-life time cricketer and a good chap too, always accommodating to my guests abroad when on tour with England.
But Ben has obviously been busy, with his mind focused on his court case – not ideal mental preparation for a Test match. It would be fine if he was playing for his county, Durham, but not England at the very highest level, Test cricket.
Remember only a few months ago, he played almost a full part in the IPL in India, where the bowling limit is a four-over stint.
He returned to England late for 11th hour preparations for the First Test against Pakistan in May and got injured during that match.
No surprise there for me as Test cricket will require Stokes to bowl 20-30 overs an innings, not four! That’s really not rocket science. He is human.
Of course all of these all-rounders are larger than life, with fantastic self-confidence and an air of invincibility around them.
Remember Ian Botham and Freddie Flintoff? It comes with the territory.
These guys have to ensure both their batting is up to scratch and their bowling too, so they do work incredibly hard and are different to the normal, one-dimensional cricketer.
Is Stokes any different to Botham or Flintoff? Not really. Remember Flintoff after the Prime Minister’s Ashes Winning Party when he fell out onto the pavement of Downing Street?
What is different is back in the day there was none or very little social media or camera phones. Had there been then Botham would have featured a lot, believe me!
I agreed with Nasser Hussain’s opinion that “Ben Stokes should look across the dressing room and see Sam Curran not playing. Ben is responsible for that.” I also agreed with Michael Vaughan who didn’t want people to celebrate Ben’s return to the Test side. Whilst he was cleared of the charge, there is simply nothing to celebrate.
Captain Joe Root clearly wanted Stokes back in his team and suggested the move to leave Curran out was “his hardest ever England decision.”
But the whole incident in Bristol, last September, was unsavoury and inappropiate and I include the initial late night drinking during the middle of a One Day Series.
I know ODI matches often end at 10pm so the England team then complete the various media and sponsors interviews and then return late to their hotel - that could be past midnight. They still need to unwind.
However, the alcohol consumption that night was unwise, a trend which is sadly mirrored in society today.
Following his arrest, Stokes missed the Ashes Series last winter, which will have hurt him, as the ECB felt they could not select him whilst evidence was being reviewed by the CPS.
He also lost a sponsor worth £200k and the England vice-captaincy. So, Stokes has lost a lot.
Indeed, nobody has come out of this with any credit – Stokes, the ECB, Team England, cricket and even Alex Hales, who was with Stokes that night.
I do hope Mr Stokes looks hard in the mirror and considers the fact that one of the best cricketers in the world has probably lost a year’s play at the very height of his international career.
That should hurt!