Ben Stokes and the Protection of Violence
The ECB’s poor handling of the so-called “Ben Stokes Affair” and how they missed an opportunity to set a precedent.
The batsman drops the ball onto the leg side and Ben Stokes runs after it. As he catches up with it he hurls the ball into the ground with a cry of disgust. His face is the same vivid red as his shirt. It caps an over spent screaming at his fielders, berating them as he beats his hands and curses in frustration. England’s fielding has been average. But watching Ben Stokes’ reaction to it is like watching a pipe burst the day after you’ve had it fixed.
The commentators praise his passion; they talk up his efforts to lift the team. In isolation, that may be exactly how it appears. But for a player with an affinity for hostility, who, throughout his career, has tight-roped the line between passionate aggression and violence, it is another worrying notice of the Ben Stokes that lives at a shallow depth under the surface.
On the 5th December, Stokes, along with Alex Hales, faces a two-day hearing on charges of bringing the game into disrepute. During this time, the commission will deliberate whether the two should face punishment for their part in the well-publicised drunken brawl on the 25th September 2017.
While the legal proceedings have been resolved — and, regardless of what armchair theorists believe about his fame either damning him or saving him, correctly — there is no guarantee that the two players, both of whom possess lengthy records of disciplinary issues, won’t face further sanctions for their mid-series antics.
Many commentators — and we should really take a moment to note how much of the commentary on the whole Stokes Affair came from male voices — cite Stokes missing eleven ODIs and the Ashes as “punishment enough.” No one’s mentioned whether the two ODIs missed by Hales are deemed enough, however. And while people argue over what Stokes did and didn’t do, and whether the pair deserves a fine or ban, it is worth questioning — seriously worth questioning — whether the ECB are simply ignoring the long-term implications of both players’ histories that they could, and should, address.