Ben Stokes’ character stood out after Bristol incident – Andrew Strauss


It threatened to be the incident that defined his tenure as England’s director of cricket, but Andrew Strauss has said that he knew almost immediately that Ben Stokes’ brawl outside a Bristol nightclub would turn out to be a good thing for him.

Strauss was tasked with dealing with the initial fallout from the incident, later denying that there was a “drinking culture” within the England squad after a series of misdemeanours on the 2017-18 Ashes tour, and recalled how he had encountered Stokes in the immediate aftermath of his arrest.

“I remember going down to the police station,” Strauss said. “I spent a long time with Clare, his wife, waiting for him to come out of the… jail. And what struck me as soon as he came out was actually his character, because he stood up and said: ‘I’ve got this horribly wrong – I apologise sincerely for what I’ve done here.’

“From that moment on, I thought this was going to be a good thing for him.”

Speaking at Lord’s to launch Ruth Strauss Day, Strauss said he realised that the public reaction would be “very noisy… very hard for us to navigate”, but that Stokes’ response had been as good as could have been hoped.

“It was very hard to know which way it was going to go. People can go two ways after something like that happens to them. Anyone who knows Ben, or who has played with him, knows what an incredible person he is to have on your team.

“I think what we’ve seen is some of those rough edges just smoothed a little bit over the last 12 or 18 months, without him losing that incredible desire, and hunger to win, and that competitive streak.

“It’s an easy story to say what happened in the World Cup final was redemption for him, but I just think it was one of English cricket’s talents showing what he can do on the greatest stage. It was amazing to see that – not just him doing it, but to see his family there, who had been through so much alongside him.”

Stokes has reined in his aggressive tendencies with the bat since his return following the Bristol incident, and finished the World Cup as England’s third-highest run-scorer, with an aggregate of 465 for the tournament. His five fifties included three at a strike-rate below 100, including his 98-ball 84 not out in Sunday’s dramatic run chase.

After hitting Trent Boult’s final ball for a single, with two needed to win, Stokes said he took a few minutes to cool down before going back out in the Super Over.

“I actually had to go and have five minutes to myself in the shower area of the changing room,” he said. “I was pretty annoyed. I was angry. I had to get my head switched back on because I knew there was a job out there to do. I was full of adrenaline, so I needed to make sure my head was in the right place.”

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Perhaps Stokes’ ability to regain his composure was the surest sign of his transformation; it is only five years since he missed a World T20 after fracturing his hand punching a locker in Antigua in frustration, following a golden duck.

Strauss also played down comparisons between Stokes and Andrew Flintoff, whom he played alongside in the 2005 and 2009 Ashes wins.

“[They are] both great cricketers in their own right,” Strauss said, “but different personalities and different characters.

“Ben is quite a quiet guy. Fred was a bit more of a showman. I’ll tell you where the similarities are very marked: they are always in all three phases of the game; they have an ability to change the game with any of those three.

“But Ben has the ability and opportunity to be just an outstanding batsman. Fred was more of a batsman who played outstanding innings, rather than an outstanding batsman.”

“I think what is going to be hard for Ben going forward is the level of adulation he’ll receive. I think that was a burden for Freddie – he often lived up to it and that was great, but increasingly you are under more and more pressure to be the man every time you play. That is a big burden.”

Ahead of the premiere of The Edge tomorrow night, the film documenting the rise and sudden fall of England’s Test team between 2009 and 2013-14, Strauss suggested that England’s World Cup winners could learn from the mistakes that team had made.

“We got to the top,” he said. “We had a method, style, and a group of players we felt could carry on and stay at the top for a long time, but we went straight back down again. That is the lesson from 2005 as well – nothing ever stays the same.

“Players change, players get injured, other teams get better. If for one moment you think you have cracked it, you are already on the way down again. And that is the challenge for this one-day team.”

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