So Ben Stokes is joining up with the England squad after a five month exile. I would say he’s ready to jump into the fray … although mentioning the words ‘fray’, or more specifically ‘affray’, might be a little uncomfortable for some. After all, many will disagree with the ECB’s decision to include a player awaiting trial for such a serious offence.
Whether you welcome this news very much depends on one’s perspective of the original incident. Some will forever see Stokes as a thug – why he shaved his head before his court appearance boggles the mind – whereas others will see him as a noble vigilante. I guess we should let the courts decide which cap fits.
The big question now is when not-so-gentle Ben (allegedly) will make his comeback. The smart money is on the second ODI. He hasn’t played for a while so Bayliss will have to assess his form in the nets before reaching a decision.
Personally, I suspect Stokes won’t need much practice. He’s a very natural cricketer with both bat and ball, and he’s a big time player. I’d expect him to rise to the occasion even if he’s a little rusty.
The intriguing thing, however, is that England beat Australia comfortably without him. So which player is going to make way? It seems harsh to drop someone who has done well. Maybe Bayliss will make Stokes wait for his opportunity. It might even do him some good.
I would love to be a fly on the dressing room wall when Stokes walks back in for the first time. Will everyone be sympathetic or will some players give him the cold shoulder? I wonder what Joe Root makes of it all? On the surface Root and Stokes seem like good buddies, but there must be part of Joe that’s really unhappy with his mate.
That night in Bristol cost Root his vice-captain, a confidant, a star player, and an all-rounder capable of balancing the side. He must have felt more than a little let down when England were getting thrashed in the Ashes.
We keep hearing that the England players are a tightly knit group these day. Stokes’s return might just test that.