Ben Stokes and the Ashes dilemma

Ben Stokes’ arrival in New Zealand has intensified speculation that he could join up with England’s Ashes squad in time for the Perth Test match.
The all-rounder landed in Christchurch on Wednesday (November 29) and was met by his parents, Deborah and Gerrard, who live in the city. He told reporters he was “just looking forward to seeing mum and dad” but it is not purely a family trip for Stokes.
He has been granted a no-objection certificate by ECB to allow him to play in New Zealand’s domestic competition. He is expected to sign a deal with Canterbury – although nothing is yet finalised – and could play in the Ford Trophy one-day competition on Sunday.
Stokes has taken the trip to New Zealand of his own volition and ECB are keen to stress that the 26-year-old will not be joining up with either the full England squad or the Lions until Avon & Somerset police’s investigation into an alleged assault outside a Bristol nightclub is concluded.
Although Stokes is still effectively suspended from England duty pending the outcome of that investigation, reports suggest that ECB will convene a disciplinary commission within 48 hours of any police decision in order to potentially expedite Stokes’s return to England duty.
If he is cleared by the police, any ban handed down by the ECB could be backdated to the matches that Stokes has already missed – two ODIs against Windies in September and the first two Ashes Tests. That would mean the all-rounder being available for the third Test at the WACA beginning on December 14.
Until that police decision is made, however, England and Stokes are in limbo. Although it has now been more than two months since the incident, it is not unusual for charging decisions to take a long time for matters of this nature given other police priorities.
Should Stokes’s case be handed over to the Crown Prosecution Service, it is out of the question that he would be added to England’s squad in Australia. It would also throw doubt on whether the ECB’s disciplinary process would allow him to play in next year’s IPL.
England’s team director Andrew Strauss had stated on Monday after England went 0-1 down in the Ashes in Brisbane that there was still no clarity regarding Stokes’s situation. “We are waiting for the police to make a charging decision and, until that happens, nothing has changed. We’re in the same situation as we have been for quite a long time now.”
Stokes’s trip to New Zealand is sensible from a cricketing perspective. He is just a short plane journey away from Australia should he be added to the Ashes squad and he can spend his time in Christchurch acclimatising to the different time zone. If he manages to secure a deal to play for Canterbury, it will allow him some much-needed match practice, too.
“The CCA Board and New Zealand Cricket will independently be considering this issue in the near future – but until then, we are unable to provide any more detail on the status of the deliberations,” said Jeremy Curwin, the chief executive of Canterbury Cricket. “As and when there are any future developments we will of course release further statements.”

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