England all-rounder Ben Stokes will be very lucky if he retains the Test vice-captaincy following his arrest in Bristol in the early hours of Monday morning on suspicion of actual bodily harm.
Former skipper Andrew Flintoff was stripped of the vice-captaincy in 2007 after the infamous drunken “Fredalo” incident following England’s defeat in their first game of the World Cup in the Caribbean.
Stokes was held overnight but released without charge pending further investigation and we don’t know how proceedings will pan out, although his behaviour has been condemned by England director of cricket Andrew Strauss and head coach Trevor Bayliss.
The long and short of it is that Stokes, 26, should not be roaming the streets in Bristol at 2.30am on a Monday. That said, there is no reason why he shouldn’t enjoy a beer or a night out, he just needs to be more sensible.
It’s no great surprise to me that something like this has happened, but hopefully it’s a tough lesson which he learns from. He is not a stupid person, but does need to make smarter decisions.
Assuming he recovers from the broken hand he sustained during the incident and nothing hinders his availability for the Ashes, which begin on 23 November in Brisbane, the Australian team and public will not let it lie.
Any chance they get they’ll be trying to wind up Stokes and he has to move on from this sensibly and stronger. He proved he can do it on the field following his nightmare final over in the World T20 final last year; now he must move on as a person.
Turning to the England squad which selectors have picked for the tour, it doesn’t fill me with supreme confidence and there are a few shocks. I’m surprised they have again turned to Gary Ballance, who didn’t look great earlier in the summer on his return to the side.
With an average of just 19 from his last 12 Tests, Ballance’s technique has been pulled apart at international level and not much has changed for me in that area. If he plays and those flaws still exist then I imagine the Australians will enjoy bowling to him.
Vince, too, was a surprise, although he is a quality player, especially on flatter wickets when the ball isn’t swinging, and he plays the short ball well. I do, however, understand the reasoning behind picking players who have had previous England experience, which is why I’m disappointed Alex Hales has been omitted.
I was a member of the England squad for the previous two Ashes tours and if this group of players, which on the whole is pretty inexperienced, came up against the 2013/14 Australian side, with Mitchell Johnson on fire, they would have absolutely no chance.
But the modern-day Australia have their own problems. They haven’t played particularly great Test cricket over the last year or so and have their injury concerns, so that should give England hope.
A worry for me is England’s bowling department, which I believe lacks firepower. Being shorn of Mark Wood is a blow because the rest of the attack is a bit similar; they are all around the 83/84 mph mark.
Australia’s batsmen aren’t going to be quaking in their boots over the pace England possess, whereas the hosts, if everyone is fit, have two or three who can bowl 90mph. That could prove the difference.