Stokes’ return met with criticism
Former England captain Mike Atherton is aghast at the decision to invite Ben Stokes to play in New Zealand.
Atherton, writing for The Times newspaper, believes Stokes, who was scheduled to join his England team-mates in New Zealand yesterday having earlier pleaded not guilty to a charge of affray following an incident in Bristol last year, shouldn’t be allowed to restart his international career with the blessing of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB).
Having considered the for-and-against arguments of whether Stokes, who had not been selected for England’s disastrous Ashes series in Australia late last year, should be recalled to represent his country, Atherton decided it was wrong to allow him the privilege of doing do.
‘‘It would be hard not to have a high degree of sympathy for governing bodies in these situations,’’ Atherton wrote.
‘‘Alleged misdemeanours can vary in seriousness, as can the consequences, and so there are no hard and fast rules to follow. That said, the best that can be offered for the ECB’s decision-making as Stokes lands in New Zealand having missed the entire Ashes series, is that it is highly illogical; at worst, it is feeble and expedient.’’
Stokes is not expected to play any international T20 games, but will instead be kept on ice until the one-day internationals against New Zealand.
There has been no shortage of support for Stokes to re-start his career with England, something Atherton acknowledged.
But he said he still believed the ECB were wrong, in his view, to pick Stokes to return to the country where he was born and raised until his parents left Christchurch to live in England.
Atherton wrote that ‘‘playing for England is an honour to be bestowed, not a right to be demanded’’.
The ECB was worried about legal advice, and the potential for Stokes to challenge them on a restraint of trade, should the trial take a prolonged period of time, and there was no appetite for the potential subsequent cost, PR damage and the deterioration in relations that could ensue between the two parties.
Atherton argues that Stokes, who played for Canterbury in the New Zealand domestic competition late last year, was not prevented from earning a living because he remained on full play while suspended from international duty.