England coach Trevor Bayliss insists there are no plans to strip Ben Stokes of the vice-captaincy of the England side or prevent him from touring Australia as part of the Ashes squad this summer, but as more reports and footage emerges of his boozy night in a Bristol Bar emerge things are looking decidedly worse for the all-rounder.
Stokes was arrested and released without charge early Monday morning after a physical altercation with a man aged 27 who was taken to hospital with facial injuries after a series of blows from Stokes. The England star remains under investigation for suspicion of causing actual bodily harm and, on the merits of the footage, could be in some trouble.
Injury and long-lasting impacts
26-year-old Stokes left the scene with a fractured bone in his right hand, which will also raise concern for Bayliss and the England hierarchy ahead of a hugely important tour, but it is the actions of a man often accused of being short-tempered that could have the longest lasting impact on the Ashes series and the England team.
Stokes was named as part of the 16-man touring squad for the series which starts in Brisbane on November 23 and is as hotly anticipated as any Ashes series in recent memory but should charges be brought, his place could come under question.
It is easy enough for me as an Aussie to sit here and say England should definitely dump Stokes, one of their better players and one who has mild success on these shores in the past, but my concern comes more from a place of respect and admiration for the Ashes and what they represent. Two old enemies, intrinsically linked forever, competing in heated exchanges, but in the spirit of the gentleman’s game.
Stokes has gone beyond that and with his act of thuggery and brutish force and has become nothing more than a common grub.
Even if he was acting on the back of the other patron swinging a bottle at his party, which also included England hopeful Alex Hales, the footage shows that Stokes lurched forward and repeatedly hit an unarmed man who was backing away from the confrontation.
A calmer approach needed
As anyone who has been the victim of stupid behaviour in a nightclub will know, there are ways of handling the situation. Hitting a man up to 15 times as he steps away from you isn’t one of them, or at least it’s not the option you pick if you’re a professional athlete, forever in the spotlight and on the eve of a hugely important Ashes campaign.
Based on his talents alone, Stokes is a senior figure amongst the England camp and he needed to check the hothead attitude at the door. He didn’t and he will bear the brunt of the consequences. The right hook with which he felled his opponent has no room in any society outside a boxing ring or MMA octagon and that he felt compelled to use it in this manner shows a lack of class and coolness under pressure at the very least, and a dark, thuggish side.
With Avon and Somerset police continuing their investigations, England may face a huge Ashes headache before a ball has even been bowled. That he has let down his teammates and his coaches and the fans of English cricket is a given, that he will have the chance to take the field against the Australians in Brisbane is now not, and the only person Ben Stokes can blame for that is himself.
It gets worse
As with most people who exposed by the tabloids in a public way, Stokes has now seen footage of himself mocking the disabled child of former Manchester United and Aston Villa striker Dwight Yorke and TV personality Katie Price.
The video shows Stokes, who is potentially under the influence of alcohol, openly mocking 15-year-old Harvey, who has several disabilities including autism, ADHD, blindness and a genetic condition called Prader-Willi syndrome.
This latest reveal could not have come at a worse time for the England star who has been suspended by the ECB and has been requested back to Bristol by Police for a second interview over his involvement in a brawl outside a popular nightclub.
While it is thought the ECB could still try to find any way to ensure Stokes tours Australia for the Ashes that is looking more and more unlikely.
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