Mike Atherton slams England Cricket Board for picking Ben Stokes for New Zealand tour
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Mike Atherton slams England Cricket Board for picking Ben Stokes for New Zealand tour

Former England captain Mike Atherton is aghast at the England and Wales Cricket Board’s (ECB) decision to select Ben Stokes for the ODI series in New Zealand.

cricket Updated: Feb 15, 2018 17:01 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Ben Stokes,Mike Atherton,England and Wales Cricket Board
Former England captain Mike Atherton is against the idea of Ben Stokes returning for the tour of New Zealand. (AFP)

There’s a great deal of excitement among England cricket fans as all-rounder Ben Stokes has returned to the side for the upcoming ODI series in New Zealand. However, former skipper Mike Atherton has slammed England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) for selecting the 26-year-old, terming the move ‘illogical’ and ‘feeble’.

In his column for The Times, Atherton argued Stokes’ selection would set a bad precedent regarding the behaviour of cricketers. In his opinion, the ECB could have waited for the court procedure to be over before making a decision on his comeback to national team.

(Read | Ben Stokes unlikely to play first ODI against New Zealand: Trevor Bayliss)

“It would be hard not to have a high degree of sympathy for governing bodies in these situations. Alleged misdemeanours can vary in seriousness, as can the consequences, and so there are no hard and fast rules to follow. That said, the best that can be offered for the ECB’s decision-making as Stokes lands in New Zealand tomorrow having missed the entire Ashes series, is that it is highly illogical; at worst, it is feeble and expedient,” he wrote for the London-based newspaper.

(Read | IPL 2018: Why Rajasthan Royals hired Ben Stokes for Rs. 12.5 crore)

Stokes faces charges of affray after being involved in an accident outside a nightclub in Bristol in September 2017. On Tuesday, he appeared in Bristol Magistrates’ that referred his case to the Bristol Crown Court, with the first hearing scheduled on March 12. He was then named in England’s squad for upcoming five-match series against New Zealand.

Recently, an article published in another British Newspaper, New Statesman, had justified Stokes’ comeback making an allusion to a similar incident from the past featuring the former charismatic all-rounder Ian Botham.

(Read | Ashes 2019 venues retained for 2023 series)

Botham, who was the captain of England back then, had led the side to a tour of the Caribbean Islands despite facing a charge of assault following his involvement in a brawl outside a nightclub in Scunthorpe.

Atherton, though, opined that the circumstances were different back then.

“Botham was not on international or even cricketing duty, when the incident occurred (it happened in December and he would have been out of his county contract too). There were no central contracts then and, therefore, no clauses to deal with behaviour or reputational damage. It was a different time and there was no push then from the national governing body to position cricket as a family friendly game, as they do so vigorously now,” the 49-year-old former English opener said.

(Read | Aaron Finch chooses wedding over cricket, to miss IPL 2018 opener alongside Glenn Maxwell)

Atherton, who has established himself as one of the most outspoken voices in cricket post retirement, also pointed to the fact that unlike Stokes, Botham had not pleaded guilty and was later acquitted.

There were also reports of the ECB choosing to select Stokes for they were concerned about the all-rounder taking the board to court on grounds of restraint of trade. Expressing his views on this aspect, Atherton said that while Stokes should have been allowed to play in leagues and paid as per his contract with the board, there was no need to rush his selection in the national team.

“Stokes was not prevented from earning his living. He remained on full pay while suspended from international duty. He has just been signed for £1.4 million to play for Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League.”

“Surely, selection for the national side is of a different order. Selections for the national team must be held to a higher standard,” he concluded.

First Published: Feb 15, 2018 17:01 IST