Ben Stokes: England’s Ashes squad announcement overshadowed by scandal involving all-rounder

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ENGLAND’S Ashes squad announcement should be the highlight of any player’s career.

Yesterday, it seemed almost irrelevant.

 Ben Stokes faces missing out on England's Ashes tour

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Ben Stokes faces missing out on England’s Ashes tour
 All Rounder Stokes is one of England's star placers and Test vice-captain

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All Rounder Stokes is one of England’s star placers and Test vice-captain

Instead of celebrating the selection of players destined for an Australian odyssey to Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, we were talking about fights, curfews and drunken late-night antics.

The Ben Stokes scandal cast a dark shadow. He might have broken his hand but he held an iron grip on proceedings.

Perhaps it was appropriate the 16 names were unveiled in The Oval’s dingy, subterranean indoor school.

Four years ago, it was in the magnificent surroundings of the Long Room at Lord’s. Mind you, England lost that series 5-0!

Chief selector James Whitaker was accompanied at the top table by Andrew Strauss.

England’s team director had discarded his tie but was at his ambassadorial best.

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 James Whitaker and Andrew Strauss announced the squad on Wednesday morning

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James Whitaker and Andrew Strauss announced the squad on Wednesday morning
 Joe Root is taking charge of his first Ashes tour as skipper

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Joe Root is taking charge of his first Ashes tour as skipper

Just as he dealt with match- fixing issues and Kevin Pietersen’s insubordination when he was captain, he again said all the appropriate things.

He could not reveal too much, of course, because Stokes is the subject of a police investigation.

But Strauss himself will quiz several players about what happened in Bristol on Sunday night and Monday morning.

Strauss, 40, said: “It is early days. I am just beginning to establish what went on over the course of that evening and the disciplinary process will flush that out. I don’t anticipate those enquiries being finished before the end of the one-day series.”

But he added: “It’s my view and I think one shared by Trevor Bayliss that the right way to operate a team environment is to treat people like adults by giving them personal responsibility off the pitch.

“When these things happen, it’s always a moment to step back and look at whether we’re doing it right.

“But it’s important players understand and recognise their responsibilities and what potential damage can be done to both the England team and the sport if we’re not seen to be good role models.”

 Ben Stokes broke his hand in the late-night incident

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Ben Stokes broke his hand in the late-night incident
 Jos Buttler's Amsterdam stag do is coming at a bad time

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Jos Buttler’s Amsterdam stag do is coming at a bad time
Eoin Morgan says England’s Ben Stokes and Alex Hales are out of fourth ODI after arrest in Bristol

Stokes’ behaviour is totally alien to Strauss, whose idea of a wild night out is smoked salmon and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

But he has a streak of steel — displayed when he sacked Peter Moores as England coach in his first week in the job.

Certainly, it seems inconceivable that Stokes, 26, can still be Joe Root’s vice-captain for the Ashes tour. And, once Strauss sees the video, further sanctions could be applied.

Whitaker answered questions about the merits of Hampshire batsman James Vince and newcomer Mason Crane but, frankly, people were just going through the motions.

Sir Ian Botham — who knows a thing or two about nights out — Mike Atherton and Nasser Hussain were pontificating on TV.

Their view is Stokes’ team-mates need to restrain him. But who can do that? Stokes is the leader of the pack, the team’s social secretary and some players are almost in awe of him.

 Ben Foakes was named in the squad but nobody is discussing the selections

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Ben Foakes was named in the squad but nobody is discussing the selections

Before bed, I have a comment on England’s Ashes squad – it’s horrendous! They may as well not go!

Night x

— KP (@KP24) September 27, 2017

Former England cricket captain Andrew Strauss comments on the incident involving Ben Stokes and Alex Hales

Next stop is Jos Buttler’s stag do in Amsterdam this weekend, which many players are expected to attend. Oh, by the way, if you’re interested, the selectors confirmed Vince will bat at No 3 despite a top score of just 42 in his seven Tests.

There are three uncapped players — reserve wicketkeeper Ben Foakes, wrist-spinner Crane and Somerset all-rounder Craig Overton.

 Uncapped Craig Overton was sent on an anger management course after being reported for racially abusing an opponent two years ago

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Uncapped Craig Overton was sent on an anger management course after being reported for racially abusing an opponent two years ago

Ironically, the choice of Overton brings the whiff of another scandal.

Two years ago, he was sent on an anger management course after being reported for racially abusing an opponent.

Overton, 23, was charged with a level one offence for “using language that is obscene, offensive or insulting and/or making an obscene gesture” against Sussex at Hove.

He is alleged to have told Sussex’s Ashar Zaidi to “go back to your own f***ing country.”

Those Pom-bashing Aussies are going to have some fun this winter.

Tweet @JohnSunCricket

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