Cricket
Andrew Miller, UK editor, ESPNcricinfo 14d

ECB seeks 'balance of censure and support' in Stokes case - Harrison

ENG tour of AUS and NZ 2017-18, Cricket

Tom Harrison, the chief executive of the ECB, has given the clearest indication yet that Ben Stokes could be back in England's plans sooner rather than later, after admitting that the board was keen to "rehabilitate reputations on the field" in the wake of Stokes' arrest in Bristol in September.

With just over a fortnight to go until the first Test at Brisbane on November 23, Harrison conceded that the ECB had been forced into a "holding pattern" as it awaits news as to whether Stokes will be charged by Avon and Somerset Police for his alleged actions outside Mbargo nightclub on September 25.

And though a board spokesman sought to downplay rumours, emanating from the Australian media, that a police update could come as soon as Wednesday, it seems increasingly clear that England are refusing to discount a recall for their star allrounder, who was made unavailable for selection after appearing to be caught on camera throwing punches at two men in a street brawl.

"What happened was wrong, there's no question about that," said Harrison, speaking at the Deltatre Sport Industry Breakfast Club in London. "You don't want to see your sport in that position and there are consequences of that. We're in a holding pattern at the minute.

"There's a process with the police and then a disciplinary process. As you'll appreciate, these things take time and that's the pattern we're in at the moment."

The question of Stokes' availability has been made ever more pressing for England's tour party following confirmation that his designated replacement, Steven Finn, has been ruled out of the rest of the tour after sustaining a knee injury.

Finn suffered a tear to his left knee cartilage while batting on the first day of middle practice, and was unable to recover despite an injection. England have called up Tom Curran as a replacement but, along with the impending arrival of the England Lions squad to shadow the senior squad, there is still a need for clarity as they formulate their Ashes plans.

With an internal ECB disciplinary process underway, but taking its lead from the police investigation, further reports suggest that - should Stokes escape police charges - he could be facing a two-Test suspension, which would make him available for the third Test at Perth, starting on December 14. However, Harrison refused to be drawn on any timeframes.

"It's complicated," Harrison said. "We can't go into any kind of detail about police matters, but there are serious issues that the game has to face and we have to get it right.

"We have to get that balance between censure and support absolutely right. I think cricket's response to this will show the value of the game in the best light.

"Having been through a difficult moment, I think we'll see the very best of cricket come out. We are blessed with a group of outstanding characters in the men and women's game. They are great ambassadors for the game and this is very much an isolated incident and an aberration.

"I think we will quickly recover to a place where the game is seen as doing its best to rehabilitate reputations on the field, and try to get Ben and Alex [Hales] back to a place where fans are really behind them, trying to do what they do best."

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