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Monday, Oct 21, 2019

Ben Stokes ‘was fighting for gay guys’, puts Ashes prospects in jeopardy

Ben Stokes, who was arrested after a brawl outside a Bristol pub, was actually helping two gay guys, who were being abused, according to British journalist Piers Morgan

cricket Updated: Sep 29, 2017 17:30 IST
Sidharth Gulati
Sidharth Gulati
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Ben Stokes has been suspended after a video of his brawl outside a Bristol pub emerged.
Ben Stokes has been suspended after a video of his brawl outside a Bristol pub emerged. (Action Images via Reuters)

It seemed Ben Stokes could do little wrong this season, with solid performances in the ICC Champions Trophy and against South Africa as well as the West Indies in both Tests and One-Day Internationals. However, his arrest on Monday in Bristol on suspicion of causing ‘actual bodily harm’ could be the most troublesome incident of his career that has had a number of controversies.

A series of tweets from British journalist Piers Morgan has added a new angle to the whole controversy of the England all-rounder getting involved in a brawl outside a pub.

READ | Ben Stokes’ brawl video surfaces, leaves Ashes inclusion in fresh doubt

Morgan claimed the 26-year-old Stokes intervened to help two gay guys, who were being abused. He also said the all-rounder was responding to the homophobic taunts made to the two men.

Homophobic taunts

Here’s what Morgan said in a series of tweets – “I’m hearing that Ben Stokes intervened to help two gay guys who were being abused by yobs (youths), one of whom was armed with a bottle,” he wrote.

“Stokes has told friends he was incensed by the homophobic taunts, then saw the bottle being raised & decided to defend himself. Stokes obviously regrets what happened but apparently his view is: ‘They started it, I finished it. I was protecting those guys.” Morgan further wrote.

READ | Ben Stokes needs ‘lifestyle change’: Ex-England cricket captain Michael Vaughan

“Stokes has told friends: ‘The guy had a bottle in his hand & was threatening us, was I supposed to wait until he smashed it in my face?”

Piers Morgan also claimed that ‘Police are aware of Stokes’ version of events and are now trying to find the two gay men, to corroborate what he’s said’.

While all these are just reports and anything official is yet to come out.

Ashes participation in doubt

On Wednesday, Andrew Strauss -- England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) chief -- said Stokes and Alex Hales, who was involved in the incident but not arrested, would be considered for The Ashes on cricketing grounds alone. But after a footage emerged of the Bristol street brawl, that allegedly showed Stokes assaulting two people outside a nightclub, the ECB confirmed both cricketers will not be considered for selection by until the conclusion of an investigation into the incident, potentially threatening the all-rounder’s involvement in the series against Steve Smith’s men, starting November 23.

As per a release in, the case has now been referred to the board’s Cricket Disciplinary Commission. It seems obvious that both Stokes and Hales will not be cleared to play international cricket again until the final outcome of the inquiry, which will most likely go on for sometime.

More Ashes Trouble

There’s no question England need Ben Stokes Down Under. He’s arguably in the form of his life. But with his ‘suspension’ -- which the ECB didn’t refer to directly -- and the ongoing investigation, Stokes’ exclusion, if it happens, will be a tough pill to swallow for Joe Root and team.

There have been questions raised on the inclusion of James Vince and Gary Ballance, both of whom have been found wanting against quality opposition. While Vince failed to prove his Test credentials in the seven matches last year, Ballance -- who scored just 24 runs in the two Tests against Bangladesh last year -- couldn’t impress in the first two Tests against South Africa before missing the last two due to a finger injury.

There are already doubts over who’ll bat at No. 3 and 5 in the Ashes. Mark Stoneman and Dawid Malan looked tentative against the West Indies but have been retained. Mark Wood and Toby Roland-Jones -- the find of the English summer -- have been ruled out due to heel and back problems respectively. To lose an X-Factor in Stokes, who is a quality fourth seamer and has batted the side out of trouble on numerous occasions in the past two years, will have England on the backfoot from ball one. While Chris Woakes is more of a bowling all-rounder and we are yet to see Somerset’s Craig Overton at the Test level, replacing the best in the business would be a humongous task.

With his growing stature and consistency across formats, Ben Stokes is irreplaceable. If he’s forced to miss this year’s Ashes, England will stand no chance to successfully defend their urn.

First Published: Sep 29, 2017 13:12 IST

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