A day after England allrounder Ben Stokes pleaded not guilty to the affray charges on him following an incident in the city of Bristol last September, England coach Trevor Bayliss said that it is unlikely the cricketer will play a part in the first ODI against New Zealand on February 25, in spite of him being available for the same. With Stokes pleading not guilty, a court hearing will take place on March 12, after the final ODI of the series which will be played on March 10. But Bayliss said that the cricketer has been away from the ground for sometime and will be given time to prepare.
“He hasn’t played for a while. It is not as if we can maybe bring him straight back for these T20s, for example. We have got to get him up to speed and hopefully during this one-day series we can get him back into the team,” Bayliss said in an interview to Sky Sports.
The coach further added that Stokes, who will be arriving in New Zealand on February 18, will be assessed during practice sessions. “At this stage I’d have to say it was unlikely [he’ll play the first ODI]. We’ll have to wait and see how he is with travel, with practice. The reason we are getting him out as soon as we can is that we can get him up to speed so he is available for selection as early as possible,” he said.
Stokes has not played cricket since the domestic T20 tournament for Canterbury in December, and last played for England in September. His absence from the England squad during the Ashes series and the ongoing T20I tri-series against New Zealand and Australia has hurt the side.
“To me, apart from the way he plays, he’s a quality batter and bowler and our best fielder and one of the leaders in our squad. I think one of the biggest things we’ve missed over the summer has been the combinations we’ve been able to play,” Bayliss said.
“Right throughout the summer we’ve been down to five bowlers, especially in the one-dayers and T20s. We’ve been able to have six bowlers before, which gives the captain plenty of different options. I think that’s what we’ve missed the most apart from his individual performances,” he added.
The 55-year old further added that Stokes will be able to brush aside his issues and focus on the sport. “There’s been players in the past who’ve had off-field issues and are able to put that aside and concentrate on cricket. Ben is one of those types of guys but only time will tell. I’ve got a feeling he will be one of the guys,” he said.
Apart from Stokes, Ryan Ali and Ryan Hale, who were also involved in the incident, have pleaded not guilty as well. All the three accused have been released on unconditional bail by District Judge Simon Cooper. In an earlier Facebook post, the allrounder said, “I am keen to have an opportunity to clear my name but, on advice, the appropriate time to do this is when the case comes to trial. The CPS’ decision to charge me, as well as Ryan Ali and Ryan Hale, at least means that my account of what happened that night can come out in court and be made public. Until then, my focus is very much on cricket.”