England have no hope without winner Stokes
Chappell writes off tourists’ Ashes chances if all-rounder is kicked out
Former Australia captain Ian Chappell claims England “haven’t got a hope in hell” of winning the Ashes if mercurial all-rounder Ben Stokes is forced out of the team following his alleged involvement in a brawl outside a Bristol nightclub.
Stokes was named in England’s 16-man squad for the Ashes tour starting in November but was suspended on Thursday, along with Alex Hales who was also present, until further investigation into the incident.
The all-rounder was arrested on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm after an incident in the early hours of Monday morning in the Clifton Triangle area of Bristol.
Stokes’ position for the Ashes tour of Australia is now in major doubt with England not only potentially losing their vice captain but also one of their best and most explosive cricketers.
The squad is due to fly Down Under on October 28 ahead of the first Test on November 23.
“They can’t win without him for a number of reasons,” Chappell told Australia’s Daily Telegraph.
“Obviously his ability is the main thing, but also, he’s a match-winning player and those sort of players drag the rest along with them and make them better.
“He’s probably one of those players inspired by playing against the better teams and again that has an effect to the fellas that don’t have that sort of confidence. I don’t think they’ve got a hope in hell without him.”
The possibility of facing an England team without Stokes may be great news for Australia but according to former captain Allan Border, the five-match Test series would be poorer without the all-rounder.
“He is one of those cricketers you would go to watch play,” Border said.
“He’s just got something about him, the aggressive nature of his cricket is exciting and it would be a real blow if he doesn’t come.”
Former England opener Michael Atherton said Stokes’ unavailability for the Ashes would be devastating for Joe Root’s side’s chances Down Under.
“If England must do without him, they will be badly damaged before a ball has been bowled (in Australia),” Atherton wrote in The Times.
“In one sense England need Stokes more than he needs them, as he is among the first generation who can play Twenty20 tournaments rather than Tests to enjoy a lucrative career.”
Unsurprisingly, Australian media have provided considerable commentary to the Stokes incident and its subsequent fallout.
Cricket writer Malcolm Knox has even suggested the ECB’s refusal to punish Stokes reveals a desperation for winning the urn.
Knox wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald: “That agonised moaning heard from Lord’s around the world is not a group yoga session loosening some stiff upper lips, but English cricket authorities contorting themselves into a pretzel in an attempt to retain both Ben Stokes and their principles.
“England’s desperate desire to win the series in Australia can be measured by Stokes not having been sacked by Wednesday.
“Making the all-important presumption that Stokes is the same redhead known as “Stokes” in the video of this week’s incident in Bristol, throwing punches in the street, visibly intimidating his victims, while his team-mate Alex Hales is allegedly begging him to stop, the case is surely open and shut.
“And yet … and yet … Stokes is an incalculably important cricketer to England and to the Ashes series overall. Stokes is arguably the most talented player across both teams and the most likely individual key to the outcome.”
Meanwhile, police investigating Stokes’ arrest have appealed for information from “two specific witnesses” who are believed to have been present prior to the incident.
He was released without charge on Thursday but has remained under investigation by Avon & Somerset Police ever since, with team-mate Hales returning voluntarily to Bristol to provide evidence.
The England and Wales Cricket Board is also conducting an internal disciplinary investigation into the Bristol incident.
The ECB, after seeing video footage obtained by The Sun newspaper which allegedly shows Stokes throwing punches in a street fight, said neither man would be considered for selection until further notice.
Yesterday afternoon, Avon and Somerset Police issued an updated appeal which read: “We believe there are two specific witnesses, both men, with information about what happened in the moments prior to the disorder who are yet to come forward and we’d appeal for them to do so as soon as possible.”
“Those sort of players drag the rest along with them” – Chappell
Sticky wicket: Ben Stokes is under investigation by the police and the ECB over his nightclub fracas.