Where is he?
Stokes is en route to Christchurch, having privately arranged a visit to the town of his birth. The ECB have made clear that they played no part in arranging the trip, and that the player “is not on his way to the Ashes, England Lions or any other official training camps with the England set-up”.
Why is he there?
Stokes was born in New Zealand – his father Ged earned one rugby league Test cap for the country – before moving to Cumbria in 2003, aged 11. His parents returned there in 2013. Officially, his main motivation is to visit his family. “Christchurch is where I used to live, where I grew up, where the family is,” he said in 2010. “It’s good to come back and see all the aunties, cousins, granddad and grandma.” Helpfully the visit will also allow Stokes to overcome jet lag, acclimatise to a southern hemisphere summer and hone his cricketing skills in case he should at some point receive a call to join England’s Test side in Australia.
What is current state of police and ECB investigations?
“Investigations are still continuing,” a spokesman for Avon and Somerset Police said on Tuesday regarding the incident on a night out in Bristol on 24 September which saw Stokes suspended by England. “As with any police investigation it’ll be over when it’s over. We don’t have any timescales at all at the moment.” Stokes gave his final statement to police 10 days ago. Once they have concluded their investigation Stokes’s case will be considered by the ECB’s Cricket Discipline Commission, chaired by Tim O’Gorman, a former Derbyshire player and former chairman of the Professional Cricketers’ Association. Though some senior figures at the ECB will be keen for Stokes to be immediately made available for selection if the police investigation is closed without charges being brought, the commission officially operates “at arm’s length” from them. “There are certain procedural things that have taken place but there is a process that can only kick in once we’ve heard a charging decision from the police,” Andrew Strauss, the director of cricket, said on Monday.
Will he be allowed to play cricket in NZ?
The statement put out by the ECB when they announced Stokes’s ban in September said only that he “will not be considered for selection for England international matches”, leaving him free to play in domestic competitions. Any player from any cricketing nation who wants to play in a foreign domestic tournament must first obtain a No-Objection Certificate from his home board, a process that allows international teams to prevent such a move if they are concerned about its implications for the player’s availability for their own matches or his fitness. The certificate is specific both to the player and to the competition he intends to play in. Stokes was issued with his certificate by the ECB last Friday.
Who might he end up playing for?
Canterbury, who are based in Christchurch, initially dismissed speculation as “just wishful thinking from a variety of people that have put two and two together and come up with five”, but later put out a statement confirming “that they have been in initial informal discussions with Ben Stokes’ representatives regarding his potential availability”. They play Otago in a 50-over match on Sunday. Stokes would also need to receive clearance from New Zealand Cricket, who said they have “an open mind on the issue and will await further information before making a decision over his playing status”. Curiously, Stokes’s arrival comes just a week after the Canterbury batsman Ken McClure was forced to stand down from representative cricket after pleading guilty to assaulting a man on a night out. “We expect a certain level of behaviour on and off the pitch from everyone that represents us,” said Jez Curwin, their chief executive.
What does this mean for his Ashes chances?
Stokes’s chances of playing in the Ashes are superficially unchanged, though should he receive a green light to play his presence in New Zealand will significantly speed up the process of getting him match-ready. There is no chance of him playing in the second Ashes Test, which starts in Adelaide on Saturday, but there may be developments before the third Test starts in Perth on 14 December.
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