Former Test captain and Cricket Australia director Mark Taylor believes the video footage allegedly showing Ben Stokes fighting outside a Bristol nightclub last month makes it “very difficult” for the England and Wales Cricket Board to allow the all-rounder to tour here for the Ashes.
More than three weeks after his arrest and the release of video allegedly showing Stokes punching a man to the ground, England’s vice-captain and the ECB are awaiting the outcome of a police investigation into the incident.
The episode has cast a pall over England’s lead-in to the five-Test series in Australia, where they will bid to retain the Ashes, and while Stokes has been replaced on the tour by bowler Steve Finn and stood down indefinitely, his involvement this summer has not been ruled out.
Taylor, who led Australia in 50 Tests and is now a member of the CA board, said his reaction would have been one of “horror” had similar footage emerged featuring a player under his watch.
“I think it’s going to be very difficult for the ECB to send Ben Stokes to Australia,” Taylor told Channel Nine.
“Having said that I’m not going to be too judgmental on Ben Stokes because I don’t know the events of the night. I have no doubt that there was probably a lot of hassling going on at the time.
“But I think the video evidence that we’ve all seen … is going to make it very difficult for the English side to pick him.”
The footage of Stokes, who was out with England one-day teammate Alex Hales, allegedly showed him reacting angrily to a reveller hitting one of his party with a bottle. After an initial brawl he was then seen to follow two men down the street, throwing a succession of punches and flooring one with a solid blow.
“I’ve always thought it takes two to tango but when you’re any person you can’t deal with it that way. Particularly when you’re in the public eye you’re in a no-win situation there,” Taylor said.
“All you can really do in that situation is get out of there. Remove yourself from the situation. I think that’s what he has to do in the future and that’s what I would be telling him if I were his captain, coach, father, whoever.”
The absence of Stokes from Joe Root’s England team has been forecast to have a major impact on the tourists’ chances of success this summer. Four years ago he demonstrated to audiences here just what he was capable of when, only a week after his Test debut in Adelaide, he blazed a brilliant maiden hundred on a cracking WACA pitch. It would end up being the only century scored by an Englishman during a sorry visit in which they were thrashed 5-0.
“He does bring something to England that Australia don’t have at the moment, that genuine all-rounder at No.6,” Taylor said.
“I remember him making a hundred in Perth four years ago. I think he showed us then what he can do in this country and in recent times we’ve seen him take some very useful wickets. You don’t always have to take a bag of wickets, but if you can pick up that big wicket, be that partnership breaker, you can change a Test match with the ball.
“He’s one of those guys that can change a Test match with the bat or the ball and they are rare characters.”
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