Sport

Smith’s shenani­gans are un­der re­view, but the Mail has the Stokes story sorted.

New Zealand Listener - - CONTENTS - by Paul Thomas

Aaron Smith’s shenani­gans are un­der re­view, but the Mail has the Ben Stokes story sorted.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into an air­port toi­let, here comes the se­quel to the Aaron Smith saga: Sex, Lies and Face­book. Last time it was ul­tra-per­sonal; this time it’s quasi-le­gal.

Last Septem­ber, be­fore the All Blacks flew out to South Africa, half­back Smith was ob­served ex­it­ing a dis­abled toi­let at Christchurch air­port with a smirk on his face. When it emerged that he’d been in there with a woman who wasn’t his part­ner, he was sus­pended for a match, sent home and sub­jected to a bar­rage of crit­i­cism and mock­ery that, not ­sur­pris­ingly, caused him to lose con­fi­dence, form and his place in the start­ing line-up.

That seemed to be the end of it. But in Au­gust, when the All Blacks were in Syd­ney to play Aus­tralia, an Aussie tabloid pub­lished a Face­book ex­change be­tween Smith and the woman that in­di­cated he’d been less than hon­est with All Blacks man­age­ment and had pres­sured her to lie about the in­ci­dent. New Zealand Rugby (NZR) got a lawyer on the case and, ac­cord­ing to the New Zealand Her­ald, the early find­ings of that re­view don’t show Smith in a good light.

It’s an ax­iom of pol­i­tics – or per­haps it’s a line from Yes, Prime Min­is­ter – that you should never set up an in­quiry un­less you know what the out­come will be. As­sum­ing the gist of the tabloid story is cor­rect, what will NZR do about it? Is Smith in dou­ble jeop­ardy – at risk of be­ing pun­ished twice for the same of­fence?

One’s ini­tial in­stinct is that it’s not dou­ble jeop­ardy be­cause there’s a ­dif­fer­ent of­fence: last time it was con­duct ­un­be­com­ing while on All Blacks duty; this time around it’s the al­leged at­tempt to muddy the waters. An­other ax­iom of pol­i­tics is that it’s the cover-up, rather than the scan­dal it­self, that does last­ing dam­age.

It’s been sug­gested that, by ­al­legedly urg­ing the woman to ­pro­vide a sworn af­fi­davit that they didn’t have sex, Smith may have ex­posed him­self to the charge of in­cite­ment to com­mit an of­fence. It would al­most be worth hav­ing a court case just to ob­serve coun­sel

It’s an ax­iom of pol­i­tics that you should never set up an in­quiry un­less you know what the out­come will be.

ar­gu­ing over ex­actly what Smith had in mind when he ­Face­booked “are you will to do a sawn af­fer­da­vided?”

The in­no­cent vic­tims, ­notably Smith’s part­ner, de­serve our sym­pa­thy, but the af­fair isn’t with­out low com­edy. ­How­ever, there’s noth­ing re­motely amus­ing about the offfield in­dis­cre­tion now con­vuls­ing English cricket and threat­en­ing to elim­i­nate star English all-rounder Ben Stokes from the up­com­ing Ashes se­ries.

While on duty dur­ing the one-day se­ries against the West Indies, Stokes went out on the town – in this case, Bris­tol – and ended up un­der ar­rest on sus­pi­cion of ac­tual bod­ily harm after a brawl that re­sulted in a man be­ing hos­pi­talised.

He was re­leased un­der investigation and promptly con­firmed as vice­cap­tain of Eng­land’s Ashes squad.

But after a tabloid pub­lished CCTV footage show­ing some­one bear­ing a close re­sem­blance to Stokes ­flat­ten­ing a man who didn’t seem ea­ger to trade blows, he was sus­pended ­in­def­i­nitely pend­ing the out­come of the investigation.

Claims have been made that Stokes was stick­ing up for two men who were be­ing sub­jected to ho­mo­pho­bic abuse. At the time of writ­ing, ­how­ever, the pair hadn’t come for­ward and the de­manour and be­hav­iour of Stokes – if it’s him – are hardly those of a peace­maker.

The Daily Mail set out to find “what could be be­hind [Stokes’s] con­fronta­tional man­ner”. The con­clu­sion: it’s all our fault. “Stokes is ac­tu­ally a New Zealan­der by an­ces­try and birth … He also has Maori blood from his mother’s dis­tant rel­a­tives.”

The Mail rests its case.

Aaron Smith: the cover-up is what does the dam­age.

Ben Stokes: fight­ing fit.

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