Chris Tremlett: England should not rush Stokes back into team
He doesn’t always have the best brain off the field but on it, more often than not, it’s a different story and having Ben Stokes back in the England squad will be a major boost for all concerned.
Ever since his arrest on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm in September, Stokes’s situation has been an ongoing sideshow and whatever the development, it has been an unwelcome distraction for the England set up.
After pleading not guilty to the charge of affray at Bristol Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday, it was confirmed that the 26-year-old will join his team-mates in New Zealand, where they are in the midst of a Twenty20 tri-series.
We know what Stokes offers to the side with both bat and ball in hand. He also provides extra balance to the team, is someone who speaks his mind and commands a lot of respect in the dressing room. His presence can only be beneficial.
I’m sure the furore around Stokes will continue for a few games when he eventually does take the field again and it will be interesting to see how he reacts to it all – there are bound to be a few players and supporters getting in his ear.
England head coach Trevor Bayliss has already confirmed that Stokes is unlikely to feature in his side’s remaining T20 fixtures, nor the opening one-day clash of the five-match series, which begins on 25 February.
Like any player, it’s important that he is not rushed back for the sake of it. We all know what Stokes can do when he’s on top form but he cannot be expected to walk straight onto the pitch after so long and perform.
I’m sure it won’t take him long to hit his straps and show his class again but it’s imperative that England bring him back at the right time. There is no point over-working him and then him going to the Indian Premier League in April and breaking down.
Bayliss is a sensible coach and I’m confident he won’t be lulled into forcing Stokes back until he has enough practice under his belt. Perhaps the two-Test series against New Zealand in March would seem the most opportune moment.
From Stokes’s perspective, he will be itching to play again. There is nothing worse than watching your team-mates on television, especially in something like the Ashes, during which England were outplayed, when he could have made a difference.
When you’re injured it’s difficult to miss games but you understand that your body just won’t let you compete. When it’s for the reasons that have sidelined Stokes, it must be doubly frustrating.
There are also a lot of cricket fans angry with Stokes and he may feel he needs to repay them. The whole episode has been a cruel learning curve but hopefully it will be the making of the all-rounder in the long term.