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Aussies staying out of Stokes controversy

Former coach and teammates defend under-seige allrounder's character following his suspension by England

Teammates and coaches past and present have defended Ben Stokes' character, with the allrounder labelled a "great lad" and a "good man" as the controversy over the allrounder rumbles on following his arrest in the early hours of last Monday morning in Bristol. 

Stokes' former coach David Saker said the player was a "good man" during his time with the England team, but now standing in as the Australian head coach in India, he won't weigh in on the incident that could cost the allrounder his place in the Ashes squad.

The 26-year-old has been suspended from international cricket after footage emerged of a man alleged to be Stokes throwing punches in a street fight in Bristol on Monday.


"I know Ben personally, I think he's a good man but I'm not going to comment on something in the English rooms," Saker said after Australia secured victory in the fourth ODI against India.

"It's their decision to make and we'll just concentrate on making sure we play well for the rest of this series."

David Saker in his former role as England bowling coach with Stokes in 2014 // Getty
David Saker in his former role as England bowling coach with Stokes in 2014 // Getty

The England and Wales Cricket Board have suspended Stokes and teammate Alex Hales, who was with him during the incident, until further notice.

Stokes is a potential match-winner and his absence would severely damage England's chances of retaining the Ashes.

"They have to deal with that themselves," Saker said.

Saker was England's bowling coach during Stokes' first tour of Australia where the hosts scored a 5-0 whitewash in 2013-14.

Stokes, who broke a finger in the Bristol incident, was arrested on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm and then released without charge under investigation on Monday.

WATCH: Alleged footage of Stokes' Bristol brawl

England batsman James Vince, who has been called into the team's Ashes squad, said his thoughts were with Stokes' family, with the allrounder due to get married next weekend. 

"It must be a very tough time for him and his family. I know him pretty well and he's a great lad," Vince told Sky Sports.

"Tough time for him but he's such an important cog in that England team, hopefully it all gets sorted with and he'll be on that plane to Australia."

Former England teammate Graeme Swann said Stokes was "a bit of hero" for defending himself and his friends against an apparent bottle attack.

"If that video (published on The Sun) is what they are going on, then Ben Stokes is a bit of a hero for me," Swann told The Mirror.

"Are we living in a world where someone comes at you with a bottle and you're not allowed to fight back? I don't condone violence and I would certainly take issue with anyone who looks to start a fight, but if you are on the receiving end then I can understand why you'd want to stop it.

"As a dad, if I watched that and Stokesy was my son I'd be patting him on the back and saying, 'Well done, mate'."

"He is a teammate who has always got your back, he really has. The love that comes out for him from his teammates is real, it is not just put on.

"I don't know the ins and outs of the details of the video, I don't know whether he is sticking up for someone who is on the receiving end of homophobic abuse or whatever, but the long and short of it is Ben Stokes is a good bloke."


It's not the first time Stokes has courted controversy.

In June last year, Stokes was caught speeding for the fourth time and warned a further offence within the next six months could lead to a prison sentence.

He broke his right hand after punching a locker after being dismissed while on tour in the West Indies in 2014.

Stokes was also sent home from an England Lions tour to Australia in 2013 for breaking team rules around drinking despite an earlier warning.

Former England captain Nasser Hussain said England should withdraw Stokes from the Ashes tour or "there is the danger that his whole presence there will turn into a circus".

"Anyone who has toured Australia will understand my point about the level of scrutiny and attention you encounter there," Hussain wrote in the Daily Mail.

Stokes made his Test debut in the 2013-14 Ashes series // Getty
Stokes made his Test debut in the 2013-14 Ashes series // Getty

"Stokes will be a target. If he travels, people will want to take him on —this can be the sort of thing that happens. Ashes tours are hard enough even when you are completely switched on.

"I also believe that the ECB have a duty of care and should not put Stokes in a predicament that he would find difficult to deal with. The Board have handled the episode well so far, but the video has moved things on.

"You reach these conclusions with a heavy heart because his absence would be a huge blow. Stokes is virtually irreplaceable … England can still operate without him, they are much weaker.

"However, the overriding consideration that the ECB have to look at is the bigger picture — and to do what is right for Ben Stokes and the game as a whole."

England claim series in rain-soaked thriller

In a statement on Thursday, the ECB announced Stokes and Hales would not be considered for international selection until further notice. England have just one match remaining, tonight's fifth ODI against the West Indies, before the Ashes begin on November 23.

Stokes was already set to miss that match having broken a finger in the Bristol incident, while Dawid Malan has been called into the ODI squad to replace Hales.

WATCH: The full video on The Sun website

The ECB said director of cricket Andrew Strauss would refer the case to the Cricket Discipline Commission, with the decision to sideline the pair made following the release of The Sun vision.

"Ben Stokes and Alex Hales will not be considered for selection for England international matches until further notice," the ECB said.

"Each remains on full pay pending further investigation into an incident in Bristol in the early hours of Monday 25 September.

"Andrew Strauss, director of England Cricket, will refer the internal disciplinary procedure for these two players to the cricket discipline commission (CDC), chaired by Tim O’Gorman.

"These decisions, fully supported by the ECB chairman Colin Graves, were made following the release of footage viewed by the ECB for the first time on Wednesday night."

Trevor Bayliss, the England coach, said the fallout from the Bristol incident was among the two most challenging issues he had faced as a coach. Bayliss was with the Sri Lanka team when their bus was shot at by terrorists in Lahore in 2009.

"It’s right up there — probably in the top two, I would have thought,” Bayliss said.

"It’s very difficult for everyone involved, something that obviously we didn’t want to go through and hope that we don’t go through again."


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Magellan Ashes Series

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ODI Series v England

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First T20I Australia v NZ, SCG, February 3. Buy tickets

Second T20I – Australia v England, Blundstone Arena, February 7. Buy tickets

Third T20I – Australia v England, MCG, February 10. Buy tickets

Fourth T20I – NZ v England, Wellington, February 13

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Sixth T20I – NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18

Final – TBC, Eden Park, February 21